D.C. man charged with setting up multiple fires
The man accused of setting multiple fires, including an April fire that injured five firefighters, was arraigned on three counts of arson.
According to charging documents, 26-year-old Maurice Dews was arrested Wednesday after allegedly setting fire to a vacant home at 804 48th place NE. Dews was arraigned at D.C. Superior Court Friday.
A spokesman for the Bladensburg, Md., volunteer fire department told ABC7 Dews tried to join their department two years ago, but was rejected. He had told investigators that he was a volunteer firefighter.
Police say he waived his Miranda rights during an interview and admitted to setting multiple fires in D.C., including one in April in which five D.C. firefighters suffered burn injuries. Four required hospitalization and one stayed in the hospital for more than a month.
“This does bring closure. It's truly a good day,” Deputy Fire Chief Bruce Faust said Thursday.
Still, residents of the neighborhoods where Dews allegedly set the fires are nervous. Arson investigators were back Friday searching for additional evidence.
"People are scared to go to bed at night, they feel that they house might just get burned down," said Northeast resident Lexisyy Robinson. "We could have lost nine lives in this house if we didn’t get out this house just in time."
Members of the same family said they spotted someone flicking a light in the vacant house across the street on Tuesday.
A resident called Mister Anderson said his kids came running "asking me to call the fire department because somebody was over there setting the house on fire."
One relative of Drews told ABC7 Thursday that she thought Drews had problems.
"For you to go around and do things like this... Thrill of it, I think he has a mental problem,” said his step sister Sierra Johnson. “He tried to run away” when officers showed up outside, she said.
The alleged arsonist was detained and questioned by detectives after some of the earlier fires, but always denied any involvement.
During one interrogation, Dews became irritated and defensive, slammed his phone on a table and told a fire investigator. "You don't know what I'm capable of,” according to charging documents.
He told firefighters he was a volunteer firefighter in Bladensburg, Md., a lie, investigators found.
Charging docs: Dews reported fires he set, then watched firefighters
The charging document says Dews called 911 to report fires in D.C. and Maryland at least nine times since 2007, some of which he is now charged with setting himself.
Dews called 911 to report at fire on 48th Place Northeast on April 8, 2011. A vacant house was burning there, threatening the residence next to it. Five firefighters suffered burns while fighting back the blaze. Four had to be hospitalized, one for over a month.
A fire department investigation showed that a mattress and phone books were used to start the fire. Dews is charged with arson in the case.
Dews called 911 to report another fire at a vacant house on June 14, 2011. The fire started in a trashcan, investigations show, and spread from the vacant house at 4501 Grant St. NE to an adjacent house.
Firefighters saw Dews at the scene watching them put out the fire, the charging documents state. They talked to Dews but he vehemently denied setting the fire, claiming he couldn’t get close to the house because the flames were too hot.
However, according to the documents, when he called 911 earlier that day he described the burning house as “being attached to another house.” That fact isn’t readily apparent when standing just across the street, firefighters said (see page 4 of charging documents).
After Dews was arrested on July 6, he admitted starting the fire at 4501 Grant St. NE.
He is charged with arson in connection with that fire as well as fires on April 8, 2011 at 811 48th Place, NE and on July 5, 2011 at 804 48th Pl, NE.
Only charred remains are left from an April fire that injured five DC firefighters, some severely. The Robinson family lives next door.
"My two daughter came waking everybody up saying there is a fire... The house is on fire next door,” Kim Robinson recalled.
Robinson is relieved her family wasn’t hit. "It could have been our house,” she said. “It could have been us"
Below are the charging documents.