Officials Suspect Serial Arsonist in D.C., Md., Va. Area

September 2, 2004

Members of the Arson Task Force are investigating a Fairfax County house fire to see if it was the work of the Washington region’s serial arsonist.

Firefighters were called to a single family home in the county’s Huntington section early this week. No one was home and there were no injuries. About an hour after county fire investigators arrived, a decision was made to alert the task force which is investigating dozens of other cases.

“It’s still at the very initial stages of the investigation. So at this point it’s too soon to say anything as far as any type of linkage to the serial arsonist,” said Mike Campbell, a spokesman for the Washington Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. ATF is among the member agencies of the task force.

Thirty-nine cases dating to March 8, 2003, are already being investigated by the Arson Task Force. Most are in the District of Columbia and neighboring Prince George’s County, Md., but there are two earlier cases in Fairfax County from February and May of this year. There are also cases in Alexandria, Va., and Montgomery County, Md.

The last fire added to the list occurred June 15 in the Mount Rainier section of Prince George’s. Monday’s incident had some similarities to many of the other cases, with the fire beginning in the early hours of the morning on the outside of the house.

“Apparently, a neighbor noticed the fire and contacted 911, and the neighbor went over and attempted to extinguish the fire,” said Lt. Raul Castillo, a spokesman for the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department. He said it began near the front door, about an hour after the homeowner left for work. Damage was minimal.

In February, the task force released a detailed sketch of a suspect, based on the description of one witness who was at an attempted arson in Northeast Washington on Sept. 14.

A June 5, 2003, fire in Northeast Washington killed an elderly woman.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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