EARLY IN THE MORNING OF DEC. 6, 2004, firefighters in Charles County, Md., responded to a house-fire call. What they found—45 homes in varying phases of construction destroyed or damaged by fire—has been called the worst case of residential arson in the state's history. Initial estimates set the damage at $10 million—at least.

The fires occurred in the Hunters Brook subdivision in Charles County, about 30 miles southwest of Washington. After briefly considering the possibility that the perpetrators were eco-terrorists, investigators turned their attention to a group of six suspects, including a security guard at the construction site and a volunteer firefighter who reportedly was turned down for a job with Lennar, builder of the ruined homes.

On Jan. 3, a federal grand jury indicted five of the six men charged with arson. Each was charged with four counts of arson and one count of conspiracy to commit arson; arraignment dates have yet to be set.

Meanwhile, Lennar has pledged to rebuild the four- and five-bedroom homes, which were priced between $375,000 and $475,000. Marshall Ames, vice president of investor relations at Lennar, declined to comment on possible motives for the fires, saying, “We are leaving the investigation to the professionals. Our focus has been on assisting our home buyers through this challenging time.”