Auto Arsonist Suspected in Northwest

A rash of vehicle fires in the District has puzzled authorities -- particularly car fires in Columbia Heights and Mount Pleasant.

Between late August through this past weekend, numerous car fires have been reported throughout the city. Despite car fires in every quadrant, D.C. Fire and Emergency Services investigators are focusing on fires in the vicinity of the Woodner Apartments in Northwest.

At least five suspicious fires in the area between Georgia Avenue to 16th Street NW and between Columbia Road and Arkansas Avenue NW appear to have been deliberately set. The fires have caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

In one case last month, firefighters were called to the 3600 block of 16th Street NW at about 3:30 a.m. for the report of three scooters on fire. Shortly after firefighters cleared the scene, they were called back again; this time for two cars on fire on either side of the street. The fires started at the front of both vehicles, damaging the cars parked in front of the them, as well. One of the car's owners told News4 that the fires lit up the street.  In all, three scooters were destroyed and four cars were badly burned.

Fire investigators, working with Metropolitan Police Department detectives, have not established any connection between all of the fires other than time and place.

"There are some similarities," D.C. Fire spokesman Pete Piringer said. "We're hoping that someone will provide some information. We really need the community's help in this particular case."

Piringer said that there are "at least a half dozen or so" that fire officials believe are connected and "well over a dozen that may be connected."

"Some of these fires may be mechanical," Piringer said. "We have some things we are looking at to rule out. But since they all occurred in this area, same time frame, there are some suspicions about those."

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