AUGUSTA — A camera set up to track vandals gave police a bird’s-eye view of an alleged arson in progress late Friday and early Saturday.

The pictures helped Augusta police and State Fire Marshal’s Office investigator Kenneth MacMaster identify Daniel Dill, 21, of Gardiner, as a suspect. He was arrested Monday and charged with arson in the destruction of a wooden shed north of the Augusta State Airport runways. The shed was used for timing Nordic ski races and for storage.

“After being confronted with the photography evidence, (Dill) confessed it was he in the photographs and he who set the fire with the intent of destroying the structure,” MacMaster wrote in an arrest affidavit.

Dill initially was held on $5,000 cash bail and appeared in court to answer the arson charge Tuesday.

His attorney, Francis Griffin, argued for a reduction to $1,000 cash bail, telling Justice Nancy Mills that Dill is on active duty in the Army and scheduled to report July 15 in New York.

“He is worried about new charges coming in military court for being absent without leave if he doesn’t report,” Griffin said.

Griffiin said Dill was seen in photographs burning “basically a vandalized shack in a park. It’s not something people lived in.”

Mills refused to reduce bail but said it could be reviewed once an attorney is appointed for Dill. Conditions of bail ban Dill from possessing incendiary devices and from returning to the area where the fire occurred.

Dill’s next court date is 10 a.m. Sept. 13.

“We got plenty of pictures — 1,700 pictures of that night on the camera — including him showing up, building the fire,” said Leif Dahlin, the city’s director of community services.

“I saw him pouring the accelerant on it. I saw him doing all kinds of things. It’s pretty sobering stuff. It’s an amazing thing to watch on a camera.”

Dahlin had installed two cameras in the area known as the bowl at Bond Brook Recreation Area, which is used by the Augusta Trails, a nonprofit organization that raises money to build and work on trails.

“We had had some other mischief going on up there that precipitated the need to catch people violating city policies and ordinances,” Dahlin said.

A snowmobile was destroyed last winter, and the timing shed’s windows were broken this spring, he said.

More recently, the building’s door was vandalized, said Michael Seitzinger, president of Augusta Trails.

The shed — about 12 feet by 16 feet — was built by inmates at the Central Maine Pre-release Center and placed on the site last November. It was used to time ski races last winter and was empty at the time of the fire, Dahlin said.

Dahlin said photos show the suspect breaking off a trail map and putting it inside the shack before burning it, Dahlin said.

“So many people worked so hard on this building,” Dahlin said. “I don’t understand why somebody has to destroy the hard work of so many people.”

Dahlin estimated the cost of repairing the damage at $10,000.

Seitzinger said the building was not insured, and restitution would be the only way to get compensation.

“It was a great asset for the community, and now it’s ‘poof,’ gone, like that,” Seitzinger said.

He said the board of Augusta Trails would have to decide what to do next.

Betty Adams — 621-5631

[email protected]

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