Market Street UMC

A homeless man who authorities say was denied shelter in the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program is accused of starting a fire inside Market Street United Methodist Church and two outside it on Nov. 21.

WINCHESTER — A homeless man who authorities say was denied shelter in the Winchester Area Temporary Thermal Shelter (WATTS) program is accused of starting a fire inside Market Street United Methodist Church and two outside it on Nov. 21.

No one was hurt in the small fires, which were reported at 10:09 p.m. and quickly extinguished. At the time, the church, located on Cameron Street, was hosting 35 people overnight who were clients of WATTS and three WATTS staff members. The nonprofit WATTS, which formed in 2009, operates 20 rotating shelters between November and March.

In a search warrant affidavit filed Tuesday in Frederick County Circuit Court, Matthew Gearhart, a Winchester Fire and Rescue Department deputy fire marshal, wrote that clothing and a beer can believed to belong to Randy Allen Ruffner were found in a room where the inside fire was set.

“A witness observed Randy Ruffner drinking from a can earlier the same evening that matched the description of the can found in the church,” Gearhart wrote.

Gearhart previously said the motive for the fires was Ruffner being angry at WATTS staff for denying him shelter because he had been disruptive the previous week.

The 46-year-old Ruffner was arrested at the scene and charged with public intoxication and underwent a psychiatric evaluation. He was charged with arson on Dec. 12.

Ruffner was being held without bond at the Northwestern Regional Adult Detention Center on Thursday night. He is due in Winchester General District Court for a probable cause hearing at 9:30 a.m. on April 29.

— Contact Evan Goodenow at egoodenow@winchesterstar.com

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