D.C. Area Arsonist Linked To 40th Fire

RIVERDALE PARK, Md. (AP) -- Authorities were investigating a house fire Friday that they listed as the 40th incident involving Washington's serial arsonist.

``I could hear car horns and someone outside shouting, 'Your house is on fire!''' said homeowner Jerry Davis said. ``It ain't the alarm clock you dream about. It was just mass hysteria in the house.''

Prince George's County Fire and EMS Department spokesman Mark Brady said the Arson Task Force added the fire to the list of 38 others and one attempted arson that date to March 2003.

``They said it has all the marks of the serial arsonist,'' Davis said as he surveyed the damage to his home on the corner of 49th Avenue and East-West Highway.

The fire charred half of the house's screen door and left a coat of soot on part of the front porch. The flames also peeled away some siding next to the door frame. No one was injured. Damage to the house is estimated at less than $3,000.

Investigators believe a flammable liquid was used to light the fire at about 5:00 a.m. They said a newspaper delivery boy saw the fire and woke up the family inside.

Davis said he couldn't find the key to unlock his back door, so he ushered his six family members and a baby sitter out of the house through the basement door.

The incident is similar to many of the other serial cases, with the fire set early in the morning and on the outside of the house.

Most of the cases under investigation are in the District of Columbia and neighboring Prince George's County, but there are two earlier cases in Fairfax County, Va., from February and May. There are also cases in Alexandria, Va., and Montgomery County, Md.

Brady said authorities had decided that an Aug. 30 fire in Fairfax County was not linked to the serial arsonist.

The last fire added to the list occurred June 15 in the Mount Rainier section of Prince George's.

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

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