- The Washington Times - Monday, August 13, 2001

Montgomery County, Md., investigators Saturday arrested a man in connection with two fires set less than a week apart in Aspen Hill and Takoma Park.
Police arrested Rafael A. Martinez, 30, at 3 p.m. in Silver Spring 12 hours after fire and rescue crews responded to an apartment fire in the 3200 block of Hewitt Avenue in Aspen Hill.
A fire department spokesman said police had sought Mr. Martinez in connection with a similar fire a week earlier at 1007 University Blvd. in Takoma Park, and they suspect both fires may be the result of a domestic dispute.
"He was the prime suspect in the fire a week ago. Police were looking for him but had been unable to find him," said Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service spokesman Pete Piringer.
The first fire was reported at about 6:30 a.m. Aug. 5 in the 1000 block of University Boulevard East in a building operated by the Silver Spring Interfaith Housing Coalition, a nonprofit organization of local religious congregations that provide housing and support services for the homeless. It caused an estimated $70,000 in damage and left two families without homes.
Mr. Piringer said the latest fire was set in the stairwell of a three-story garden-style apartment building, briefly trapping occupants of its 12 units inside. No one was displaced or injured. The fire caused about $500 damage.
In both incidents, investigators using special police dogs detected a petroleum-based accelerant.
Mr. Martinez is being held pending a bond hearing. He is charged with two counts of first-degree arson and 12 counts of reckless endangerment, and faces a maximum penalty of 60 years in prison and $100,000 in fines for the arson charges and 60 years and a $60,000 fine for the endangerment charges.
More charges are pending.

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