- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 15, 2003

D.C. fire marshals yesterday began questioning residents of the 640-unit Capitol Park Plaza apartments in Southwest about another arson — the fifth arson and sixth fire in the building in two weeks.

Firefighters got the call about 6:45 a.m. yesterday as apartment residents were evacuating from the eight-story building at 201 I St. SW.

The fire originated in a trash compactor in the basement and caused about $1,000 in damage before being extinguished, said Alan Etter, spokesman for D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services.

“Someone did something deliberately to set the fire,” Mr. Etter said. “There was a lot of smoke that pretty nearly affected all the floors.”

Compactors are used in big buildings to pound trash into small bundles for easier disposal. Mr. Etter said the fire was set with a match rather than initiated by some sort of timing device.

“We continue to investigate the series of previous fires that investigators believe are connected,” he said. The main difference is that the other fires were set about 2 a.m.

• On Sept. 29, a couch was set ablaze in the basement.

• On Oct. 2, a fire was touched off in a third-floor utility closet.

• On Oct. 7, a blaze began in a trash can near an elevator shaft on the seventh floor.

• On Oct. 11, a fire was set in a storage room on the roof.

Firefighters responded to a call Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. for a fire that turned out to be accidentally ignited. The apartment complex is undergoing renovation and the fire began on the fourth floor as a crew worked on a gas stove.

Most of the residents had gone to work and the apartments were not evacuated. There were no injuries in that fire or the five arsons.

Security is high around the Capitol Plaza building, which fills most of the 200 block fronting on I Street. The brick and concrete building is surrounded by metal fencing with iron gates that residents unlock by punching code buttons.

Uniformed security officers usually can be seen in a glassed office on ground floor at the main entrance.

“Management has been cooperative,” Mr. Etter said, as investigators examined fire sites and talked with residents.

Fortunately, Mr. Etter said, “It’s a fire-resistant building.”

“All of the fire alarms worked,” he said.

The Capitol Park Plaza arsons probably are not linked to 33 suspicious, similar fires that have flared in the District and Prince George’s County this year.

Ten of those fires in the District and six in Prince George’s have been conclusively linked to a serial arsonist. Most of those fires were set on front porches of individual homes.

Neither are the Capitol Park arsons believed to be associated in any way with three fires set earlier this summer in the 1100 block of Sixth Street, also in Southwest, and also at an eight-story apartment building — the Marine View Towers.

Fire marshals charged Paul M. DuBois, 57, a Marine View resident, with one count of arson as result of a fire outside his fourth-floor apartment on July 23. He has been in jail since July 30, awaiting trial.

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