- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Investigators said yesterday that 20 suspicious fires in Prince George’s County and the District since May 1 that have caused one death and several injuries could be the work of a serial arsonist.

The announcement about the possibility of a connection comes at the same time Montgomery County officials report that another serial arsonist could have set five fires in the county since Saturday and as Fairfax County officials say they have arrested six persons in connection with two unrelated arson cases.

Damages in the fires are estimated at $10,000 in Fairfax and $113,000 in Montgomery. No injuries were reported.

The fires in Prince George’s County and the District are believed to be unrelated to those in Montgomery or Fairfax.

D.C. Fire and EMS spokesman Alan Etter said yesterday there is no solid evidence that links the city fires to one another or to those in Prince George’s County but investigators are “sharing information.” He also said the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined in the investigation into eight fires in the District since May 1.

“We are exploring that possibility,” Mr. Etter said.

All the fires were fueled by accelerants, said Mr. Etter and Chauncey Bowers, spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire and EMS Department. Mr. Etter said the D.C. fires were set on front or back porches and spread into the homes.

One of the fires, on June 5 at a home on the 2800 block of Evarts Street NE, killed 86-year-old Lou Edna Jones, who was sleeping inside the home. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the death as a homicide.

Mr. Bowers said fire investigators are “fairly confident” that six fires set at single-family homes this month are connected.

Prince George’s investigators are expanding the investigation to include another half dozen recent fires, including several set in hallways of apartment complexes.

Mr. Bowers said nobody was injured in the house fires but that there were some injuries connected to the apartment fires.

Firefighters rescued six persons from their homes during a two-alarm fire May 27 in a hallway at the Marlow Plaza Apartments in Marlow Heights. Another resident broke an ankle jumping from a second-floor balcony, and four others were treated for smoke inhalation.

Mr. Bowers said investigators have no suspect descriptions and are mapping the fires to determine whether there is a solid connection. He does not think there is a link to the Montgomery County fires.

Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, said three fires were set early Saturday and that two more were set Monday in the Darnestown community.

On Saturday firefighters responded to a landfill fire near Quince Orchard High School about 1:30 a.m., then a warehouse fire in the 12300 block of Darnestown Road that resulted in about $12,000 in damage. The third fire that day was a set in the garage of a single-family home under construction on Welcome Lane about 3 a.m. The fire caused about $1,000 in damage.

Early Monday morning there was a trash fire on Turkey Foot Road and Dodie Drive, followed by a construction trailer fire at Travilah Road and Pine View Lane. The trailer fire caused $100,000 in damage.

Mr. Piringer said the fires are being investigated for links to one another and to three fires that occurred April 14. He said there were similarities among the fires, including location, time and nearby vandalism.

The Fairfax fires appear to be isolated incidents. Three juveniles were arrested for setting grass fires in Great Falls on June 14. Three other juveniles were arrested for setting a church bus afire June 21 in the Springfield area.

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