Another D.C. Fire is Linked to Serial Arsonist

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Washington region's serial arsonist was blamed for a Friday blaze which was his second fire this week. It marks the 46th time the arsonist has struck since March 2003, as investigators said he appears to be more organized.

Homeowner Mary Johnson said she heard heavy footsteps outside her Northeast Washington home and thought someone was breaking in. Her companion, Gene Richardson, got up to take a look.

``He said, 'Oh my god! The house is on fire,''' Johnson said.

``I peaked out there and the fire was all in the door. I pulled the door back right quick and that was it,'' Richardson said.

Johnson was treated for a hand burn while Richardson was not hurt. Their home is barely half a mile away from the arsonist's lone fatal blaze, which killed an elderly woman in June 2003.

Kelly Long, an agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said investigators believe the latest fire is linked to the previous ones based on general characteristics. She notes that the fires begin at certain times - generally between midnight and 6 a.m. - and investigators are finding similar evidence at each scene. An ATF profiler continues to look into the cases.

``The profiler was saying that he feels this person is more organized than he thought in the beginning of these fires. And they're getting progressively closer together,'' said Mike Campbell, another ATF agent.

``One of the thoughts has always been the person's stress level. As times get more stressful for this person, that we're going to start seeing more fires,'' Campbell said. He noted this is the holiday season, and there have also been the suspicious fires which destroyed numerous homes in Charles County, Md.

Friday's fire was the second in four days linked to the serial arsonist. On Tuesday, fire broke out in the stairwell of a four-unit apartment building in Prince George's County, Md. That fire was the arsonist's first since Sept. 23 in Montgomery County, Md. He has also struck in northern Virginia.