- The Washington Times - Friday, September 24, 2004

A serial arsonist who has plagued the region for more than a year-and-a-half departed from his profile and set fire to a parked car in Northeast, representatives of the Arson Task Force said yesterday.

The fire occurred in the early morning of Sept. 8 in the 2800 block of Channing Street NE, Special Agent Kelly Long, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore office of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said.

“This is new with the car fire,” she said. “Do we know why he’s now moved to car fires? We don’t know. It could have been a crime of opportunity, it could have been he was pressed for time. We don’t know.”

Miss Long said only that “evidence found at the scene” linked the car fire with 43 other cases the task force is investigating, but she would not elaborate on what that evidence was.

Battalion Chief Gary Palmer, the District’s lead fire investigator, said the task force was reviewing cold cases to determine if any other unsolved car fires match the arsonist’s profile.

The car fire occurred in the Woodridge neighborhood of Northeast, about two blocks from where a fire was set outside a home early Monday in the 2800 block of 30th Street. A June 2003 fire on that same block resulted in the death of Lou Edna Jones, 86, the only fatality connected to the string of arsons.

Miss Long expressed confidence that the arsonist would be caught, but she would not say whether there are any suspects, what type of evidence has been collected, whether specific information has been collected from the arson tip line — 301/77-ARSON (2-7766) — or whether the arsonist has attempted to make contact with investigators.

Miss Long repeatedly said the task force is working “24/7,” but she would provide no details on how often investigators from different jurisdictions meet or how they share information.

She said investigators have detected no specific patterns from lapses in the arsonist’s activity during the summers of 2003 and 2004 or from a 10-month absence from the District between a November 2003 house fire and the car fire Sept. 8.

The most recent fire occurred Thursday in Wheaton, where a fire was reported about 3:40 a.m. outside a garage at a condominium building in the 10800 block of Amherst Avenue.

The arsonist is believed to be responsible for five fires since Aug. 30, a dramatic increase after six fires to that point this year.

So far, 20 arsons and one attempted arson have occurred in the District. The arsonist has struck 17 times in Prince George’s County, three times in Fairfax County, twice in Montgomery County and once in Alexandria.

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