Reader Reports Homeless Man Setting Fires in Columbia Heights has Returned

Fire from alley between the 1400 block of Columbia and Irving St, NW previously reported in April of 2013

Unfortunately a reader reports that the man setting fires in Columbia Heights, which we previously spoke about almost exactly a year ago, has returned:

“The fire starter from columbia heights was back this am, police refused to take a report. Same alley. Again got him after the fire was out but building and alley reeked of smoke. I asked multiple times for that report to be written up and got shut down. I wanted a paper trail because that is always asked of me whenever I try to talk to someone higher up about it. I asked for a misc report and they refused.”

33 Comment

  • There has been a homeless man also setting fires at the tennis courts in Columbia Heights at 16th and Park. Do you have a description of the man?

  • The fires in Columbia Heights are really up-and-coming.

  • do you carry a camera with you?

  • saf

    Get in touch with the commander of your district about this. She will take it seriously.

  • Back when I moved to DC, people hadn’t even invented fire yet. Now people are complaining about *too much* fire? You gentrifiers are ruining the character of the neighborhood.

  • The other day I saw a man setting a fire in the play area near the tennis courts on 16th street (near that church where homeless people hang out). I watched him tend to the fire as another woman, just 10 feet away from him, called the police. He didn’t seem to notice her. I thought maybe he was going to cook something. It was bizarre. I imagine most of his fires play out in similar fashion.

    • and cc Chief Lanier, Jim Graham (short-timer) and his replacement Brianne Nadeau, and Mayor Gray (short-timer) and Muriel (!) Bowser… think MPD is not concerned about random fires is ludicrous….do you have the officer’s name / badge #?

      maybe if they were piles of burning parking tickets……

  • And what was MPD’s excuse this time for not taking a report? (Too much paper work for them?) Someone will probably suggest it, but you probably need to make your way to the police station and talk to someone about this situation. Find out what these officers are required to do, and find out how you and they should be approaching this. This whole situation is crazy, and I’d be really upset if this was my neighborhood. What if this guy sets fire to a house or building where disabled people or animals are unable to escape? (This, by the way, is one of my greatest fears with my animals at home when I’m at work. Having a guy like this on the loose would drive me crazy!)

    • I have been asked for report numbers in the past when speaking with the fire investigation team as well as when we contacted Jim Graham. So to be safe this time I asked for the report number before everyone left. The responding officer refused because there was any physical evidence of fire, only the smell and the charred aftermath next to the sleeping guy. So I asked if there was any report number associated with my call. He said no because there was no report. Then I asked if there was anything that could be filed and he responded a miscellaneous report. So I asked for that and he said no. I asked again and he said no. Then the homeless man began to gather his 2 shopping carts and head toward us so I said I was going to go back inside, meaning inside the gate, but they took it as I’m going back in the house. As soon as I turned my back and got safely in the gate they had returned to their car. I didn’t want to shout because I’m terrified of this guy now.

      I have the badge number and was told a fire investigator would be contacting me today. Last year I worked with a woman who never responded to any of my calls so I’m not surprised that I haven’t heard anything back today. Thankfully, between the response at 4 AM and 7 AM this morning the man was gone.

      • Ugh. Sorry to hear that and very scary that this is happening near your doorstep. Definitely go to the station and email jcm’s contact, Jacob Kishter. You need a game plan for this guy if it becomes a pattern. The last thing you need is to play games with officers who can’t be bothered to do their jobs or go the extra mile to help a citizen. Good luck!

      • This is insane. How many 911 calls can they ignore before there has to be some action?

  • Maybe something good can come of this. If we introduce the firebug to the ‘midnight pooper,’ the latter could do his business, and the former could burn the result for fuel.

    But seriously… A firebug in my neighborhood would scare the…uh…cr*p out of me, and it’s unbelievable that the police won’t take a report.

  • I’m a 5 foot nothing girl with an ankle full of metal, so I am trying to avoid confrontation at all costs. I have yelled at him to put out the fire before from behind the gate but then was told that it was best if he is actually caught with the fire

  • A co-worker of mine said to call the fire department about it and then the fire department would be the ones that would have the MPD fill out a report.

  • What if you call 911 and report “arson in process”?

    • … could work. It’s one thing to report something dangerous, it’s another thing to report a crime in progress. Then again, this is the MPD we’re talking about.

      • I’ve never had an issue with them showing up, always very prompt. Just very little can be done in the current situation without actually seeing him start the fire and I want to know the next steps.

        • Right. This is the main issue. DC is the only city I know that does miscellaneous reports. These are reports done to make people feel better but don’t do anything. The issue is that there needs to be some evidence of a crime. If it is a fire, then the fire dept will respond and they will have a run number. But in this case, there’s not much to be done.

          Honestly, this isn’t just an MPD or FD issue. The Dept of Mental Health and Homeless Services needs to get involved as well. If you speak to Cmdr. Kishter, he’s pretty responsive. Do you know what PSA you’re in? All of the PSAs have Lieutenants and their email and cell phone numbers are listed on the 3D home page. You should email them, and cc Kishter, as he’s just going to send it to them anyway.

          But honestly, he’ll probably end up going to CPEP, which means he’ll be out. There might be human service agencies that can put together a longer term plan for this guy.

  • Outrageous! So, someone needs to die before they’ll pay attention to this?

  • Contact the Office of Unified Communication at 202-373-3700 and ask for the on-duty fire investigator from DCFEMS. Or if its during business hours you can try their office phone: (202) 727-1614.

    Hopefully the DC Fire Investigators will be more interested in locking this guy up than MPD since it is the FD’s members that will be risking their butts if one of this guy’s fires gets out of control.

  • Kudos to those recommending emailing elected officials and media. The cops in this town are, shall we say, AWFUL. The only way to get their attention is by reaching out to our elected leaders. Squeaky wheel gets the grease too.

  • The last comment in the thread from last year was left a few weeks after the post, but it appears to be someone who thinks this man might be a missing family member. Does anyone know if the potential family was ever contacted?

  • So with the photo capability of your phone, I presume you have video as well. Start recording all activities, homeless man starting fire, MPD response, to include their unwillingness to do their job, the fire and damage, and the MPD driving away. Send that to all of the persons listed, media too. I’m sure that will illicit a reasonably proportional response.

  • why don’t yall snap a picture of him so we can see whether or not he is davis smith our missing sick brother please please please from louisiana 337-254-8084 or pat smith 337-330-2204 thanks.

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