- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A fire set Sunday is the third arson incident in the past two months and the 16th since 2004 in southern Prince George’s County, officials said.

“Unfortunately, it’s similar to a lot of other instances, and we’re going to try to get as much information as possible to find the person responsible,” said Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County fire department spokesman.

The fire started at about 11:40 p.m. in a vacant home in the 16900 block of Livingston Road, in Accokeek.

Mr. Brady said the house was under construction and was burned to the foundation. Officials said the flames burned neighboring houses and that fire also was set to the house last month.

The fire resulted in an estimated $350,000 in damage and brought the total damage caused by the 16 fires to $2.5 million, Mr. Brady said.

He declined to give details about the fires, including how they were set, whether they appear to be connected or whether investigators suspect a serial arsonist may be to blame.

The Maryland State Fire Marshal and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are investigating and have not determined a motive, Mr. Brady said, but they are not ruling out hate crimes.

In neighboring Charles County, 35 racially motivated arsons occurred in two locations in 2004.

Five white men were sentenced in those arsons. Investigators determined that the men set the fires after learning the homes were purchased by blacks.

Mr. Brady said he did not know whether the men are being investigated for any of the earlier fires in the Accokeek area.

Twelve of the fires have been along a roughly two-mile stretch of Livingston Road, and two have occurred at houses just off of that road.

All of the fires in Accokeek were started at vacant houses set for demolition or new houses under construction, Mr. Brady said. He said some construction equipment also was set on fire at some of the scenes.

FBI Baltimore field office spokesman Richard Wolf said Maryland authorities have not asked the agency to investigate the fires.

Mr. Wolf said the FBI may join the investigation if deemed appropriate.

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