- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A deliberately set fire in Northwest early yesterday bears striking similarities to 17 arson fires being investigated in the District and Prince George’s County, fire officials say.

The fire occurred at about 4:30 a.m., outside the back door of an apartment in the 4900 block of North Capitol Street NW. The fire was quickly detected by a resident, and no one was hurt.

The fire came the same day officials from the District and Prince George’s County met with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to compare notes on a series of fires that have killed one woman in the District and caused a number of injuries since May 1.

Prince George’s County officials said yesterday their investigation is focusing on nine fires since May 27. The most recent fire was at an apartment complex in Capitol Heights on June 22.

“Investigators identified nine they believe are similar in nature,” said Chauncey Bowers, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department. “They still have work to do to say they’re concretely linked together.”

Mr. Bowers cited similar circumstances in the fires, including the fact that they all were set at occupied homes, during early-morning hours, and liquid accelerants were used. Several of the fires were set outside single-family homes, while others were started in the hallways of apartment complexes.

Including yesterday’s fire, D.C. investigators are looking into nine suspicious fires since May 1.

One fire, on June 5 at a home in the 2800 block of Evarts Street NE, killed 86-year-old Lou Edna Jones, who was sleeping inside the home. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the death as a homicide.

Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman, said investigators still haven’t said whether the D.C. fires are connected to each other or to the fires in Prince George’s County.

Dan Woloszynowski, an ATF spokesman, said the ATF has fire investigators and laboratory resources that could assist local authorities in their investigation, but he declined to elaborate on what the agency has committed to the probe.

“We’re dedicating our full resources to any investigative technique the group working on this wants to employ,” he said.

Mark Kaigler, who lives in the house targeted this morning, said he was unaware of the string of fires in recent weeks and knew of no reason why he would be targeted by an arsonist.

Mr. Kaigler said he didn’t see anyone on his back porch when he was awakened by a strange noise from his kitchen and discovered the fire.

“I heard the sound of fire, of shades rattling. It just actually woke me up,” said Mr. Kaigler, 30, a graduate student at Howard University.

He said he tried to put the fire out with a fire extinguisher but was unsuccessful. The fire destroyed the kitchen door and worked its way inside, spreading to the ceiling. At that point, Mr. Kaigler went out and knocked on his neighbors’ doors to notify them of the fire.

He said fire investigators told him a flammable liquid was used to start the fire.

“I’m just happy no one got hurt,” Mr. Kaigler said. “It could have been much worse.”

Montgomery County fire officials are investigating three fires that were set early Saturday and two more set early Monday in the Darnestown community that caused $113,000 in damage. They do not believe those fires are connected to the fires in Prince George’s County and the District.

Fairfax County fire officials Monday announced six arrests in connection with two suspected cases of arson. Those cases appear to be isolated incidents.

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