- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2001

Fairfax County, Va., fire officials are investigating three small fires they say were deliberately set Sunday night in the hallway outside Rep. James P. Moran's congressional district office in Franconia.

Fire investigators yesterday said one of the fires, set directly in front of Mr. Moran's office, damaged the front door but nothing inside.

The two other fires, which were set in other parts of the carpeted hallway, damaged other offices in the building, including one for an insurance company and three medical offices.

Investigators said they do not know yet who was the target of the fires. No one was injured.

U.S. Capitol Police spokesman, Lt. Dan Nichols, whose officers also are investigating the cause of the fires, said the investigation shows "at this point, there is no indication that Mr. Moran was the target."

Mr. Moran, Virginia Democrat, was in Switzerland attending the World Economic Forum when the fires occurred. He was expected to return late yesterday.

Staff members at the 8th District congressman's Capitol Hill office and the congressional district office where the fires occurred said they were hesitant to draw any conclusions until the investigation is complete.

The congressman's office is located on the second floor of the two-story building located in the Rose Hill Shopping Center, at 5115 Franconia Road.

"We know it was an act of vandalism, but we were not the only office that was damaged by the fires," said one Capitol Hill staff aide who asked not to be identified. "We're trying not to make any precipitous conclusions. We're waiting for a complete report from fire investigators."

Lt. Nichols said Capitol Police routinely join investigations when a member of Congress is involved.

Lt. Lorenzo Thrower, a county fire and rescue spokesman, declined to discuss details of the investigation. The fires caused about $10,000 worth of damage to the building, fire officials said.

Fire and rescue crews were called to the building about 10:50 p.m. Sunday and quickly extinguished the fires. Lt. Thrower did not know how the crews became aware of the fires.

Despite the fire damage, Mr. Moran's office remained open for business yesterday as two members of the six-person staff answered calls from constituents, said Susie Warner, the office's district director.

Four other staff members were sent home so that the office could be aired out from the smoke.

Ms. Warner said the fires charred some carpeting in front of Mr. Moran's office door, which most likely will be replaced.

However, none of the offices involved in the fires were broken into, fire officials said.

"We don't know anything yet as to what may have happened," Ms. Warner said. "But we'll do anything we can to help investigators find out what did happen."

"Most of all, we're glad that no one was in the building when this occurred," she said. "That's our biggest concern."

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