AFTER A DECEMBER FIRE RAVAGED 26 HOMES under construction at the new Hunter's Brooke subdivision in Indian Head, Md., authorities determined that 19 of the home fires were a result of arson. Ten homes were completely destroyed and 16 others suffered massive damages in the community located about 30 miles outside of Washington.

The fires, which caused an estimated $10 million in damage, were the largest case of residential arson in the state's history.

As of January, six men had been arrested in conjunction with the arson and a variety of motives are still under investigation, including the speculation that fires were set by environmental extremists. The development had been opposed by activists who claimed the construction would damage a wetlands area. Although a lawsuit between environmentalists and the Army Corp of Engineers was in progress at the time of the fires, no evidence has been found to support that theory, police said.

Another federal official reported that revenge is also being considered. One of the suspects was turned down when he tried to get a job with Lennar, who was building in the development.