Norman Cleveland Swift III, 60, was held on $15,000 bond at the Somerset County Detention Center.
Swift is accused of starting a fire near the intersection of Phoenix Church Road and Farm Market Road on the evening of Sept. 21. Firefighters already in the area saw Swift speeding away from the scene. They tamped out the flames before they could spread.
The State Fire Marshal’s Office, Maryland State Police, and the Department of Natural Resources Forest Service assisted in the investigation.
A search warrant served on Swift’s truck in an unrelated case turned up pyrotechnic flares. An analysis of the burned area found material consistent with that used in the construction of flares. A second search warrant for Swift’s phone records placed him in the area of the fire.
Last summer and early fall, Somerset County was struck by a series of 15 fires in brush and woods. No one was injured and no structures were involved. The investigation into those fires is continuing.
Swift was charged with setting the October 1987 fire that destroyed two blocks of Crisfield’s waterfront, causing $5 million in damage. That charge was dropped in exchange for a guilty plea on a charge of nonfeasance in office while he was police chief.
Swift is scheduled to appear in court on May 2. The single charge of malicious or negligent setting of fires carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison and a fine of $2,000.