Trash fires are again becoming a trend in Capitol Hill. WJLA has a small story on the trend and notes that investigators are looking into it. Of course, the last time trash-can fires had worried Capitol Hill residents occurred around the time of the Eastern Market fire. The D.C. Fire Department quietly dispatched a team of investigators to try and apprehend the fire bug; investigators believed that there may have been a connection between the dumpster fires and the Easter Market blaze.
Fire Department investigator Greg Bowyer was part of that team looking into the previous dumpster fires. That investigation, he says, did not come to a proper resolution. “The investigation of the trash fires in 2007 were totally mishandled,” he says. “This should be an indicator to the Fire Department that these mishandled fire investigations are not going to go away.”
Bowyer says that the investigation was halted prematurely. One suspect had been arrested. But investigators were not able to definitively tie the suspect to the fires or definitively clear the suspect. The man never went to trial. He disappeared and was later found dead.
“Fire officials just assumed the person was caught. I was convinced that the investigation was not handled properly,” Bowyer says.
Of course, there may be no connection between these fires and the ones that popped up around the time of the Eastern Market fire.
The 1D listserv has been spreading the word about the latest round of trash fires.
On Sunday one resident wrote:
“We live on 3rd St. SE between C and D and have had 3 dumpster/trash barrel fires in four weeks – the most recent one last Sunday (8.10) at @ 6am. I posted on this listserv just to warn folks in the area to keep lids closed (the fires seem to be in containers that are either open or have no lid, at least these three).
One of the several members of MPD that responded last week was a member of the arson investigation team, and they are aware of these fires.
I also received replies from Diane Groomes and Diane Durbin of MPD that they would pass the word along to Chief Faust.”
Another resident was less than satisfied with law enforcement’s response to the fires:
“Just noticed your original post and that there seems to be no follow-up by MPD-1D, though some follow-up was promised.
Our lid was on, having a lid on or off doesn’t seem to matter much.
Again, according to me neighbor, there have been 24 such fires on the Hill, though I cannot confirm this.
Does not seem like arson is tracked on the various crimereports:
Least there is no mention of these fires.
Word from MPD-1D would be reassuring.
Late yesterday evening, Assistant Chief Diane Groomes responded on the listserv to “Bob”:
“Sir- when we get the information from the Fire Department – ARson Task Force we will post .. they are the lead agency on such cases … Dep Chief Faust has been contacted -t hey do not have access to this listserv at this time.”
DC Fire/EMS spokesperson Pete Piringer tells City Desk that the fires have been set between the 200 and 400 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. “We don’t have that many,” he says. “In the last month, we’ve had maybe a dozen or so. We have some investigators working on it. We have some pretty good leads… I know we have some resources working on this one. We have some pretty good leads.”
*photo of Fire Chief Dennis Rubin by Darrow Montgomery.