- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 10, 2003

A task force of fire investigators is examining whether an early morning blaze set in Northeast yesterday is connected to a string of 27 others in Prince George’s County and the District.

Yesterday’s fire was set at about 2:45 a.m. in the 4700 block of Dix Street NE. A 40-year-old woman and her 15-year-old son were home sleeping at the time, said D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services spokesman Alan Etter.

Mr. Etter said a flammable liquid was poured onto the front porch of the house, and the ensuing fire quickly spread to the roof. A woman in the house said she was awakened by “crackling and popping” sounds, and that she and her son escaped uninjured. The front porch was charred, resulting in about $60,000 worth of damage.

Members of a regional task force, which includes the Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department, the D.C. Fire and EMS Department, the Metropolitan Police Department and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) were on the scene yesterday investigating.

“It’s on our list of fires that are similar in nature,” said Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Chief Ronald Blackwell.

Sixteen fires in the District and 12 fires in Prince George’s County that have been determined to be similar in nature have been set since March 5. All the fires were set during the early morning hours near front or back doors of homes and involved the use of an ignitable liquid. The most serious was a fire June 5 in the 2800 block of Evarts Street NE that killed an 86-year-old woman.

The ATF connected six of the fires through lab analysis performed on physical evidence. Five of those fires were set in Prince George’s County and one in the District.

A Sept. 4 fire in the 5100 block of Barnaby Run Drive in Oxon Hill was the first one since a blaze July 2 in the 300 block of 17th Street SE.

Another fire was set Monday at 4 a.m. in the 200 block of Quackenbos Street NW. Investigators said that fire was set at the front door of a house in the Manor Park Community in the early morning hours.

A 45-year-old woman survived the fire after being awakened by her two cats and the sound of breaking glass. The woman and the cats escaped through a back door.

Chief Blackwell said that despite the two-month lull between fires, task force members have met daily, gathering information on suspects. Chief Blackwell declined to comment on the number of suspects. “It’s quite an extensive list,” he said.

Chief Blackwell said he remains optimistic the arsonist will be caught, and hopes the most recent fires will provide the evidence investigators need to break the case.

“I think we’re getting closer every day,” he said. “The fires do provide an opportunity to get new information and a fresh analysis.”

Fire investigators arrested a Southwest man in July and charged him with setting a fire July 23 at Marina View Towers complex where he lived. That building also had suspicious fires June 26 and July 6.

Paul DuBois, 57, was held without bond on a charge of arson. Fire investigators said they don’t believe that case is related to the other fires in Prince George’s County and the District.

A $21,000 reward has been offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction of the arsonist or arsonists. Anyone with information should call 301/77-ARSON, write to Arson Task Force, P.O. Box 211, Bladensburg, MD 20710, or e-mail [email protected]

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