- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 23, 2003

D.C. fire investigators yesterday questioned a man injured in an early morning fire at a Southwest apartment building in connection with that blaze and two others that were deliberately set in the building in the past month, fire department sources said.

Sources close to the investigation said the man, a resident of the Marina View Towers in the 1000 block of Sixth Street SW, told fire investigators he was injured trying to put out the fire, which was set at about 3:50 a.m. yesterday.

They said the man, who has not been identified, smelled strongly of gasoline.

The man told investigators he saw the arsonist flee the scene, but he was unable to provide investigators with a description, the sources said.

The man suffered smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands and arms. He was taken to a local hospital and discharged yesterday afternoon.

Fire department officials would say only that the man may have critical information about the fires.

“This person may have certain information that could be useful in our investigation,” said Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman.

He said investigators may want to interview the man again. Mr. Etter said the man is 57 years old.

Investigators say the fires at the apartment complex are not related to a series of 24 fires in Prince George’s County and the District that have been deemed “similar in nature.”

Firefighters responding to yesterday’s fire found heavy smoke on the fourth floor from several small fires and a number of containers of ignitable liquids. The fire caused an estimated $50,000 in damage.

Mr. Etter said the fire was similar to two others set at the apartment building since June 26.

The first fire, at Marina View Towers, a two-alarm blaze that sent two residents and a firefighter to the hospital with minor injuries, was set in the early evening of June 26 on the fifth floor of the eight-floor apartment building.

The fire was set in the hallway, using a liquid accelerant that many residents said smelled like gasoline. Days later, investigators detected an ignitable liquid spread in the fourth-floor hallway before a fire was set.

A second fire was set on the fourth floor of the apartment building on July 6.

No one else was injured in yesterday’s fire. Fire officials said newly installed fire alarms were in place. Since the first blaze, fire officials have issued three $1,000 fines to building managers for not having working fire alarms.

He said fire investigators were at the building Tuesday night to reassure residents that the equipment was working and they didn’t have to conduct nightly fire watches. He said the alarms were the main reason more people were not hurt in the fire.

“That was a critical element in waking up everybody in the building,” Mr. Etter said.

He said anyone with information about the fire should call the city’s arson tip line at 866/91-ARSON.

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