- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 6, 2003

D.C. fire investigators said yesterday that more than one arsonist is setting fires in the city.

Investigators at an early-morning fire in Southwest yesterday discovered flammable liquid similar to that found at 22 other fires in the District and Prince George’s County, but they said the evidence most clearly matches that found in another fire set at the same apartment building, in the 1000 block of Sixth Street SW.

“Investigators say this is not the work of ‘the’ arsonist,” said a D.C. fire department spokeswoman.

The fire yesterday started about 5 a.m. after a flammable liquid was spread on a fourth floor apartment door.

The same technique was used June 26 to set a fire in the building’s fifth floor hallway, said D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter. Seven residents were rescued in that fire. Investigators inside the building that day also found flammable liquid spread in a fourth floor hallway, but no fire was set, Mr. Etter said.

So far, investigators have said only that the presence of flammable liquid links the 22 other fires.

The first one was set March 25, but the remaining 21 did not occur until after May 15. Among them was a June 5 fire in the 4900 block of Evarts Street NE that killed Lou Edna Jones, 86. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating that as a homicide. Seven persons have been hurt in the other fires, with injuries ranging from smoke inhalation and minor burns to a broken ankle.

Investigators have “conclusively linked” five of the fires to a serial arsonist and have a description of a suspect in a June 30 fire in the 2500 block of Randolph Road NE.

Witnesses said they saw a black male in his 30s, about 5 feet 9 inches tall and with a medium build. He was riding a bicycle and wearing a dark-blue baseball cap, burgundy T-shirt and dark pants.

Officials are offering a $9,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the serial arsonist. The reward includes $2,500 from Prince George’s County volunteer firefighters.

Anybody with information should call 301/77-ARSON.

More than 150 persons have been interviewed by members of an Arson Task Force, made up of Metropolitan Police, the D.C. fire department, Prince George’s County fire department, and federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

D.C. fire officials quickly determined that two fires the morning of July 4 were not set by the serial arsonist. Two firefighters were slightly injured while fighting a two-alarm blaze in a vacant building in the unit block of O Street NW. A few hours later, firefighters responded to a kitchen fire in the unit block of Tuckerman Street NW.

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