Fired restaurant employee charged with arson for Upper Marlboro blaze, officials say

A former restaurant employee was arrested for arson after Prince George's County officials said she set a fire at the business early Thursday morning.

It sparked a three-alarm blaze on Main Street in Upper Marlboro where the Al's Country Kitchen is located.

The restaurant and several other businesses make up the ground floor of the three-story building with apartment units occupying the third floor. Many of those businesses and apartments sustained heavy fire damage.

Authorities said all of the residents of the building escaped safely.

According to fire officials, three occupants residing in apartments on the top floor were displaced and the American Red Cross is assisting them.

Around 100 firefighters responded to the scene at around 1:30 a.m. and they were able to extinguish the fire by 3 a.m. One firefighter was treated at the location for heat exhaustion, but did not require to be hospitalized.

Investigators said the fire was determined to be incendiary and authorities later charged 26-year-old Jessica Marie Poole, of Harwood, Maryland, with two counts of first-degree arson, second-degree arson and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Sources said she was caught on camera throwing some sort of incendiary device through the window of the building,

Poole was a former employee of the restaurant and had been recently fired, fire officials said.

FOX 5 has learned that Poole is also facing charges for a crash on Route 4 two weeks ago. According to court documents, she was driving the wrong way down the road under the influence of both drugs and alcohol.

FOX 5 went to Poole's home where her husband seemed shocked that she had been arrested. He declined to speak on camera, but said they have two young children.

Community members said Al's Country Kitchen, also known as Al's Deli, had been serving up pancakes, eggs and sandwiches since at least the 1980s. An employee said the restaurant's owners, a couple in their 80s, are devastated. The restaurant has been a staple on Main Street, just down the block from the county courthouse. One of the tables inside was known as the judges' table because many judges would come to the restaurant to grab a meal.

Restaurant employees are working to set up a GoFundMe account. There is also a collection box set up at the 7-Eleven store down the road after one of employees, who lived above the restaurant, lost everything in the fire.

The Office of the Fire Marshal estimates the fire caused $250,000 worth of damage.