- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 5, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The regional Arson Task Force was called out yesterday to investigate whether a house fire was the work of a serial arsonist.

The home in suburban Takoma Park was destroyed, but no one was hurt. Damage was estimated at $400,000.

“We did consult with the regional Arson Task Force. They did send investigators to the scene,” said Pete Piringer, spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service.

Authorities feared that the fire might have been started by a serial arsonist who has struck at least 48 times in the District and several suburbs since March 8, 2003. The last fire linked to the arsonist occurred Dec. 10 in Northeast.

“Our investigators are carrying the cause of the fire as undetermined,” because they could not figure out the ignition source, Mr. Piringer said.

The fire is thought to have started on or under the front porch, where Mr. Piringer said there were “lots of combustibles,” including gasoline kept for lawn mowers.

“Nothing really has been ruled out,” he said. Asked whether the serial arsonist might be to blame, he answered, “That remains to be seen.”

“There’s some similarities. This is, geographically speaking, an area of interest. It is a front porch where the fire originated, which is similar” to other cases, Mr. Piringer said.

But although the arsonist generally strikes in the pre-dawn hours, yesterday’s fire broke out shortly before 7:30 a.m.

The majority of the fires have occurred in the District and Prince George’s County, both of which border Montgomery County. There are also cases in Fairfax County and the city of Alexandria.

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