- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

D.C. fire officials yesterday released a list of nine suspicious fires, including one deadly blaze, that investigators believe could be linked to a series of similar fires in Prince George’s County.

“These are deliberately set fires in the District which share some, if not all, of the same characteristics as a series of deliberately set fires in Prince George’s County,” said Alan Etter, D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department spokesman.

The first fire occurred March 25 in the 2000 block of Jasper Road SE. The latest was at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday outside the back door of an apartment in the 4900 block of North Capitol Street NW. That fire was quickly detected by a resident and no one was hurt.

The list released yesterday includes a June 5 fire at a home in the 2800 block of Evarts Street NE that killed 86-year-old Lou Edna Jones, who was sleeping. The Metropolitan Police Department is investigating her death as a homicide.

Most of the fires in the District occurred in Southeast or Northeast, close to the District’s border with Prince George’s County.

Prince George’s County officials Wednesday released a list of nine suspicious fires they are investigating. The first there occurred May 27. The most recent fire was Sunday at an apartment complex in Capitol Heights.

There have been 17 suspicious fires in the two jurisdictions since May 15.

On two occasions, June 5 in the District and June 17 in Prince George’s County, two fires were set the same day. On one occasion a week passed between a May 29 fire in Prince George’s County and the June 5 fires in the District.

Several of the fires were set outside single-family homes, while others were started in the hallways of apartment complexes.

Investigators from both jurisdictions are working with agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Mr. Etter said yesterday that investigators are testing the accelerants used in the fires at the ATF lab in an attempt to link them conclusively.

Despite similarities, investigators have not officially linked the series of fires to a serial arsonist. Mr. Etter said all the fires involved liquid accelerants and were set during early morning hours outside of occupied homes.

“In each and every case someone’s life was put in peril,” Mr. Etter said. “If this is the work of one individual or a group of individuals, it is obscene. Certainly from a fire department perspective we can’t understand why anybody would start a fire.”

Mr. Etter said D.C. Fire and EMS Assistant Chief of Operations James Martin discussed the incidents yesterday with Prince George’s County Fire Chief Ronald Blackwell. He said the chiefs wanted to make sure their departments were “on the same page” in the ongoing investigation.

“That the chiefs are involved would indicate the level to which they are concerned about these incidents,” Mr. Etter said.

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