- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 15, 2003

The list of fires in the District and Prince George’s County that are under investigation for links to a serial arsonist continued to grow yesterday although two weeks have passed since the last blaze was set.

Investigators said yesterday a fire deliberately set in the District on March 5 on the 1700 block of D Street SE and another in Prince George’s County on April 20 on the 5700 block of Jay Street in Fairmount Heights were similar to 22 others under investigation.

That brings the total fires being examined in the District to 14 and in Prince George’s County to 10. The most recent blaze under investigation was set July 2 on the 300 block of 17th Street SE.

Investigators announced yesterday they had conclusively linked a sixth fire on the list of 24. It occurred June 20 on the 1300 block of Chapel Oaks Drive in Chapel Oaks. Five of the linked fires were set in Prince George’s County and one in the District.

Officials said they expect to link several more of the fires in the next few days.

Prince George’s County Fire Chief Ronald Blackwell said investigators have collected “very significant physical evidence from several of the fire scenes” but have not developed a profile of a suspect.

“There’s no way that we can say today that the person we’re looking for is male or female, is old or young,” Chief Blackwell said. “None of that information is available to us.”

He said investigators have also tried to find some meaning in the time of day the fires were set, the locations and the targets.

“We’ve looked at some patterns, but none of that has been conclusive,” he said.

The fires linked to the arsonist have been set at night outside houses or in hallways of apartment buildings. Each fire involved the use of an ignitable liquid.

Seven persons, including a D.C. firefighter, have received minor injuries in the fires ranging from smoke inhalation and burns to a broken ankle.

A June 5 blaze on the 4900 block of Evarts Street NE killed Lou Edna Jones, 86. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the case as a homicide.

Nobody was hurt in either of the two fires added yesterday to the list.

The March 5 fire was set in a trash pile outside a row house. A homeowner doused it. That fire pushes back by nearly three weeks the start of the spate of blazes. What had been the first event was on March 25.

D.C. Fire Chief Adrian Thompson said it is possible that the list of fires could continue to grow as investigators analyze cases going back weeks and months.

“What we’re doing is reviewing all previous fires that we’ve had in the city that were suspicious in origin in terms of evidence gathered from the sites, comparing what kind of data we have from the incidents that we know were arson fires, and going from there,” he said.

Officials with the arson task force — including the D.C. Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services, the Metropolitan Police Department and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — are offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the serial arsonist.

Authorities say they are still looking for someone they call a “possible crucial witness,” who was seen riding a bicycle from the scene of a fire on the 2500 block of Randolph Street NE on June 30. The person is described as a black man in his 30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall with a medium build. At the time of the fire, the man was wearing a dark-blue baseball cap, a burgundy T-shirt and dark pants.

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