Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2008

Fire officials seek arsonist in apartment fire

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Fire investigators say that arson caused an early Saturday fire at Forest Oak Towers, a high-rise for elderly and disabled low-income residents in Gaithersburg owned by the county's Housing Opportunities Commission.

"We've got some really good information from the community and other sources," said Pete Piringer, spokesman for Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Services, referring to investigation leads.

County fire and EMS crews responded at about 12:30 a.m. Saturday to the 175-apartment building in the 100 block of Odendhal Road, Piringer said.

None of the building's approximately 220 residents was injured in the small fire, which investigators have determined was deliberately set in a potted plant in front of a door on the 9th floor hallway, Piringer said. Sprinkler systems contained the fire, but there was about $400,000 in damage in about nine apartments and an elevator, he said. An HOC statement said that one tenant's apartment door frame was damaged in the fire.

The building was evacuated, and fire officials helped residents onto buses and made plans for temporary shelter, he said. About two dozen residents were temporarily displaced.

Anyone with information is asked to call 240-777-2263.