- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2003

Authorities looking for the arsonist in nearly 30 fires in the District and Prince George’s County appealed directly to the perpetrator yesterday to get in touch with them.

“The task force would like the person responsible for these fires to contact us,” said Chief Ronald D. Blackwell, of the Prince George’s County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.

“From our understanding of individuals involved in this type of behavior, we know they often desire to communicate a message to society at large. We want this person to know that we are a willing audience for that message,” Chief Blackwell said.

Investigators consider 28 suspicious fires — 16 in the District and 12 in Prince George’s — to be similar in nature. Six of the fires have been linked conclusively to one another.

The chief said that setting fires could be a “means for him to relieve stress or frustration caused by other people,” and that “we can all understand what stress is.”

“This individual may feel pain and anger more than the average person, and therefore choose to relieve those feelings through fire setting,” Chief Blackwell said.

Also yesterday, authorities released a sketch of a suspect whom Chief Blackwell described as a black man with a light-brown complexion, medium build, salt-and-pepper hair — possibly gray and cropped back.

The fires began March 5 and continued until July 2, after which there was a break until this month, when three fires were set and added to the list.

The chief said the task force picked up good information and evidence Sunday after an incident in Northeast, where a resident told authorities about seeing a man who was on the verge of starting a fire on his porch.

An 86-year-old Northeast woman was killed in a June 5 fire. Seven persons, including a firefighter, have been injured. Chief Blackwell expressed concern about more innocent people being hurt, and said that concern extended to the suspect.

“Accidents can happen to the best of us, and we do not want to see him get hurt,” he said.

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