Fire Chief Appeals to D.C. Area Arsonist

CHEVERLY, Md. (AP) -- Authorities looking for an arsonist suspected in nearly 30 fires in the District of Columbia and neighboring Prince George's County, Md., appealed to the suspect Monday to call them.

Such people ``often desire to communicate a message to society at large,'' said Chief Ronald D. Blackwell of the Prince George's County Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department. ``We want this person to know that we are a willing audience for that message.''

There have been 28 suspicious fires -- 16 in the district and 12 in Prince George's -- that investigators consider similar in nature. Six have been conclusively linked.

The chief said that setting fires could be a ``means for him to relieve stress or frustration caused by other people,'' and that ``we can all understand what stress is.''

``This individual may feel pain and anger more than the average person, and therefore choose to relieve those feelings through fire setting,'' Blackwell said.

The fires began March 5 and continued until July 2, after which there was a break until this month, when three fires were set and added to the list.

An 86-year-old Northeast Washington woman was killed in a June 5 fire, and seven people, including a firefighter, have been injured. Blackwell expressed concern about more people being hurt, and said that concern extends to the suspect.

``Accidents can happen to the best of us, and we do not want to see him get hurt,'' Blackwell said.