One department, two arson rates


Fire Chief Kenneth B. Ellerbe is seen at the Wilson Building in Washington on March 28. Data obtained by the Post raise questions about the fire department’s arson clearance rate. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

Something notable has been happening in the  D.C. Fire and Emergency Medical Services department: Its fire investigators, according to data the department provided recently to the Office of the City Administrator and the D.C. Council, are closing arson cases at a remarkable rate — with nearly four in five closing with an arrest. That would be about four times the national average if it were true. But turns out the figure is misleading; the department, under Chief Kenneth Ellerbe, quietly changed its counting method to count only fires with overwhelming evidence of malicious intent as arsons. Were the figure calculated using generally accepted national standards — the method favored by the city’s fire marshal — the arson rate would nearly quadruple for 2012, while the case-closure rate would fall to under 10 percent, half the national average.

In other news:

Robert Bobb is making moves toward a mayoral run (Post)

Vincent Gray deploys Boston bombing specter in push for fire department shift changes (Examiner)

Opposing planned 911 shift change, unions raise concerns about dispatcher staffing and training (WaTimes)

With federal investigations lingering as 2014 elections loom, some “hard but fair questions” from Colby King (Post editorial)

Antiabortion group secretly tapes D.C. doc discussing hypothetical live birth (Post)

Arizona congressman reintroduces D.C. “pain-capable” abortion bill (AP)

Kaya Henderson: “I do not believe that we need to create more friction to get better results. … Do not confuse a lack of controversy with a lack of urgency.” (Post op-ed)

Redesigned DCPS summer school program leaves most profoundly underperforming children behind (Post)

The District’s stark arboreal divide, fueled by mistrust and gentrification fears (Post)

After budget autonomy vote, the waiting is the hardest part (Post)

Bike boom is shaming many grown Washingtonians into learning how to ride (Post)

Circulator buses could serve the National Mall by fiscal 2015 (GGWExaminerWAMU-FM)

Expect to start seeing streetcars on H Street and Benning Road soon (Dr. Gridlock)

There are fewer gas stations where land is most expensive (Post)

Police prepare to deploy cameras at 32 stop signs, 16 crosswalks (Examiner)

Speed cameras are “all about the money,” Armstrong Williams has concluded (WaTimes)

Gray administration won’t move forward on planned KIPP high school in Southwest until small area plan is completed (Post)

LivingSocial suffers epic hacking, but its financial picture is improving (Examiner)

Woman walking along South Capitol Street in Washington Highlands is struck and killed by car (WRC-TV)

Nationals Park scalping crackdown: Why? (WTOP)

Boston flag flies over Wilson Building (AP)

Police detective slain by stepson is laid to rest (WTOPWUSA-TVWTTG-TV)

It’s that time of year, when charter school advocates press the D.C. Council for more money (Post)

Pre-K spending is high in D.C., the only place in the nation that guarantees it (Examiner)

Shadow senator: “We don’t need run-off votes; we need a vote that counts” (Post letters)

Doug Jemal makes his first move on H Street NE (WBJ)

Another city employee is accused of being a parking cheat (Examiner)

Takoma dispensary say it will open this week — will it beat better-publicized Capital City Care? (WRC-TV)

Hiring private attorneys to write education legislation: pro and con (Post)

The Franklin School hasn’t gotten any less decrepit since the last time the city offered tours (WBJ)

Shift to digital projection threatens Avalon Theater’s survival (WJLA-TV)

Rock Creek Conservancy battles hazardous tree ivy (WTOP)

Sibley hospital expansion gets permits, moves ahead (WBJ)

For Shaw parcel, city chooses one- and two-bedroom apartments with ground-floor retail (Borderstan)

Hill East renderings are pretty snoozy (Housing Complex)

The case for exempting domestic violence victims from welfare time limits (DCFPI)

An easy solution to Eisenhower Memorial squabbles: Just don’t build it (Post op-ed)

Also, the Grant Memorial stinks (DCist)

Apparent Good Samaritans near Logan Circle are not (Post)

Killer’s last comment before sentencing: “Just throw the book at me and be done with it. I got things to do.” (Post)

Mike DeBonis covers Congress and national politics for The Washington Post. He previously covered D.C. politics and government from 2007 to 2015.

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Mike DeBonis · April 26, 2013