- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 20, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Investigators believe the serial arsonist who has set more than 30 fires in the D.C. area struck early yesterday in New Carrollton.

The Arson Task Force linked the fire in the 5700 block of 83rd Place to 12 other arsons in Prince George’s County, 18 arsons and an attempted arson in the District and an arson in Alexandria, Prince George’s Fire/EMS Chief Ronald Blackwell said.

Investigators made the determination based on the fire’s occurring overnight, being outside the house and other physical evidence that Chief Blackwell declined to identify.

The small fire was set with an unidentified ignitable fluid on the side of a garage attached to a one-story house around 4:30 a.m., Chief Blackwell said. It was quickly extinguished, and the two men inside escaped unharmed.

Since March 5, 33 fires have been identified as being similar in nature, and 13 have been conclusively linked based on physical evidence, fire officials said. An 86-year-old woman was killed in a June 5 fire in Northeast.

Debris and other evidence from the scene of the New Carrollton fire has been sent to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) lab.

Investigators canvassed the neighborhood yesterday where the latest fire occurred, hoping residents could provide clues.

Earlier this year, they released a composite sketch of the arsonist based on a description by a Northeast resident, who chased away a man who had been pouring a flammable liquid on a porch.

The ATF also has developed a profile of the arsonist. The characteristics include possible alcohol abuse, reckless or unsafe work practices, blaming others for his problems and frequent lying.

Chief Blackwell said stress also may have triggered the arsonist.

“We’re certainly in the midst of the holiday season, and they’re good stresses and bad stresses that are going on now that may have caused the individual to act out,” he added.

Chief Blackwell said he’s not frustrated that they haven’t made an arrest.

“We continue to be energized because we believe we’re on the right track and getting closer, but there is an ongoing need for the public’s involvement,” he said.

Investigators have posted a $25,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist.


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