- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Prince George’s County fire official yesterday said investigators are examining whether a string of three suspicious and four deliberately set fires at a Greenbelt apartment complex this month are connected.

“There are some similarities between them,” said county fire department spokesman Mark Brady. “But to say they’re all linked to one person, that hasn’t been determined.”

Authorities have responded to seven notable fires since April 4 at the Springhill Lake Apartment Complex, Mr. Brady said.

The most recent fire occurred April 16, just after 8 p.m., authorities said. Four days earlier, firefighters responded to two fires at the complex that also broke out at about 8 p.m. On April 4, a fire was reported just before midnight.

All four fires were determined to be arson, Mr. Brady said. Three other fires in recent weeks have been labeled “suspicious” by investigators.

Four of the fires have been declared arsons by the county’s fire investigators, who are working with Greenbelt police and AIMCO, the company that owns the complex.

“Our top priority is to let our residents know that we’re concerned about their safety,” said Cynthia Eichner, AIMCO’s vice president of corporate communications.

The fires are part of an ongoing investigation also focusing on vandalism occurring in basement storage rooms and laundry rooms.

No injuries have been reported, and damage has been minimal as firefighters have caught and contained the fires in the early stages.

Mr. Brady wouldn’t say how the fires were set, but he said investigators have leads in the case. Police have also stepped up patrols in the area.

Authorities are offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Late last month, two apartment fires broke out at the complex over a 10-hour period, displacing hundreds of residents.

Fire department officials determined the fires were the result of electrical problems and unrelated to the more recent fires.

“Whether it’s electrical or an arson, a fire is a fire, and a fire is a scary thing,” Miss Eichner said. “It’s saddening that someone would use people’s fear” to terrorize them, she said.

The majority of the displaced residents have returned to their homes, Miss Eichner said.

Springhill Lake is the largest garden-style apartment community on the East Coast. The three-story garden-style wood-framed apartment buildings are a combination of brick and composite-fiberboard construction widely used about 40 years ago.

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