- The Washington Times - Monday, June 2, 2003

Investigators are looking into two fires that occurred this morning on the same street in Southeast. One in the 3400 block of A Street was ruled an arson, and the other, in the 4400 block, appears to be an accident caused by someone leaving a candle burning before going to sleep.

D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter said officials are questioning people who were in the three-story apartment home at 3411 A St. SE, where the arson took place around 5 a.m. Firefighters rescued two adults and three children from the top floor, he said.

“What it appears to have been is someone applied a flammable liquid to some trash,” Mr. Etter said. “They lit the trash, which in turn scorched the wall. There was a lot of smoke.”

The fire was started in a first-floor hallway, he said. Damage was contained to the common areas, and electricity was restored to the building by yesterday afternoon. Residents in the multiunit building complained about the smell of smoke in furniture and clothes.

“I heard the fire alarm this morning and opened the door,” said third-floor resident Carla Johnson. “I opened the door, and the smoke just came washing in.”

One woman was treated on the scene for an asthma attack, which resulted from the smoke, and then was taken to George Washington University Hospital. She was released.

“This was a small fire,” said Ramas Poteat, spokesman for the Rolyn Companies, the contractor repairing the building. He estimates the fire caused about $34,000 worth of damage, including two windows broken by the fire department to ventilate the smoke.

Raymon Williams, 8, was one of those rescued from the third floor. “Where are the children?” he recalls hearing firefighters ask as he waited inside his grandmother’s apartment.

His grandmother, Loretta Williams, said she has complained to security several times about easy access to the graffiti-littered common area. She also said the building’s back door lock was not working. She speculates the arsonist may have entered through the broken door. However management at the Meadow Green Courts apartments said the building was “not a problem building” and the locks worked fine.

Police “continue to question a number of people who live in the building,” Mr. Etter said.

There are no suspects at this point in the investigation, Mr. Etter said.

In the fire that appears to have been an accident, which occurred around 4 a.m., everyone had left the house by the time firefighters arrived, and nobody was injured, Mr. Etter said. That fire took place at 4411 A St. SE.

The candle, which was on the first floor, tipped and started a fire.

Anyone with information regarding the fire that investigators have ruled an arson is encouraged to call the department’s arson hot line at 202/673-2776.

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