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Six fires conclusively linked to D.C.-area serial arsonist

Chief Blackwell:
Chief Blackwell: "We continue to believe that someone has seen or heard or knows something."

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Six fires in Washington, D.C. and Prince Georges County, Maryland, are the work of a serial arsonist, fire officials said Tuesday.

Eighteen other fires are similar in nature and are under investigation, they said.

The serial arsonist strikes in the middle of the night, officials said, dousing the front or back doors of occupied homes with a flammable liquid. One source told CNN that liquid is gasoline.

One of the fires similar in nature claimed the life of 86-year-old Lou Edna Jones, who died in her home June 5. Officials said a flammable liquid had been thrown on her door and ignited. Her two grandchildren, ages 13 and 24, managed to escape by jumping out of a second-story window.

The fire chief is asking people to e-mail or write to Prince Georges County Fire & EMS, P.O. Box 211, Bladensburg, MD, 20710.

Authorities have not conclusively linked that fire to the serial arsonist.

Prince Georges County Fire Chief Ronald Blackwell said investigators continue to look for clues. There are no suspects or even a general idea of the arsonist's age or sex, he said.

"We have gathered what we believe to be very significant physical evidence from several of the fire scenes, but we do have a continuing gap and a need for the public's involvement," Blackwell said. "We continue to believe that someone has seen or heard or knows something that can help us get these cases resolved."

Officials have no motive in the case so far and probably will not have one until a suspect is apprehended, Blackwell said. Most of the victims have been black, he said, but it's not clear that race has played a role.

"We really don't know, and until we've had an opportunity to speak with the person or persons responsible, it would be a bit irresponsible for me to speculate on that," Blackwell said on CNN's "Wolf Blitzer Reports." "True, the victims have primarily been African-American, but we don't know that that means anything at this point."

Blackwell said investigators are not frustrated.

"We're energized. What we're getting from the public, what we've seen in our laboratory analysis has suggested to us that we're on the right track and doing some of the right things," he said. "And so while I would be the first to tell you I wish it was over and we had it done, we're not there but we're not tired."

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