The Washington Post

Fires on Student Drive thought to be set intentionally

Investigators believe fires at neighboring homes in Clinton this month were possibly set intentionally, and they have deemed the cases “suspicious” as they continue to investigate and search for suspects, authorities said.

Both incidents occurred at homes on Student Drive that were constructed in part by Prince George’s County high school students working with an organization known as the Foundation for Applied Construction Technology for Students, said Mark Brady, a Prince George’s County Fire/EMS Department spokesman. As part of a program, Brady said, the students work alongside home-building experts to construct homes that are later sold.

No one was hurt in either blaze.

The most recent fire occurred 1:30 a.m. Monday morning, and it caused about $150,000 of damage at an under-construction home at 8204 Student Drive, authorities said. Because the home was at a point where dry wall was to be installed, authorities said, timber and lumber were exposed, and that fueled an especially intense blaze. The structure collapsed into its basement, and propane cylinders at the site exploded and flew nearly 50 yards across the street, authorities said. Those cylinders damaged a car in a neighbor’s driveway and caused some damage to the garage, authorities said.

The earlier case occurred about 6:15 p.m. on New Year’s Day at a vacant, bank-owned home at 8202 Student Drive, authorities said. That fire caused about $250,000 in damage, authorities said.

Brady said police had been investigating reports of vandalism in the Clinton neighborhood where both fires occurred, and fire investigators were probing that as they worked to determine who might have set the two homes on fire. He said there was a “possibility” the two fires were connected, though investigators had not conclusively linked them with forensic evidence.

Brady declined to say how the fires were set, saying it could jeopardize the ongoing investigation.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Arson Tip Line at 301-77-ARSON (27766), though residents who see suspicious activity in their neighborhoods should immediately call 911, authorities said.

Matt Zapotosky covers the federal district courthouse in Alexandria, where he tries to break news from a windowless office in which he is not allowed to bring his cell phone.


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