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D.C. man charged with setting fires at 3 vacant houses

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A District man has been charged with arson in three D.C. house fires in recent months, including an April blaze that injured five city firefighters, some of them severely.

Maurice T. Dews, 26, was arrested early Wednesday after he allegedly set fire to a vacant house in Northeast Washington, authorities said. They said Dew, of the 700 block of 50th Street NE, had been under investigation in a series of arsons at vacant houses in Maryland and the District in recent years.

Although Dews remains a suspect in those other fires, authorities said, he has been charged in only three fires, all in the District, including a predawn blaze April 8 in the 800 block of 48th Place NE. Someone piled trash in a vacant residence there and set it ablaze.

The house was “in an otherwise densely populated residential area,” and flames from the vacant structure “were touching and burning the occupied residence next door,” investigators said in an affidavit filed in D.C. Superior Court.

One of the five D.C. firefighters injured that morning, Charles Ryan, suffered burns on about 30 percent of his body and has had several operations. Ramon Hounshell, another firefighter who was burned, has required multiple skin grafts.

The two men are undergoing rehabilitation, officials said. Firefighters Theodore Douglas, Warren Deavers and Robert Alvarado also were injured in the April 8 blaze but have returned to duty, the officials said.

Dews set fire to another vacant house in the 800 block of 48th Place NE late Tuesday night, authorities said.

After he was arrested early Wednesday in connection with that blaze, the affidavit says, Dews “provided a videotaped statement” to investigators in which he acknowledged “setting a number of . . . fires in vacant buildings” in the District and Maryland — the two on 48th Place and another June 14 in the 4000 block of Grant Street NE.

He was charged with one count of arson in each of those fires, said Pete Piringer, a spokesman for the D.C. fire and emergency medical services department. No one was hurt in the Tuesday night and June 14 fires, officials said.

Dews has called 911 to report numerous fires in recent years and has been seen standing in crowds watching vacant buildings burn, authorities said.

His scheduled initial appearance in Superior Court was postponed Thursday after a judge ordered him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

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