Hollywood arson spree: Firefighters 'swamped' by wave of fires
The fire calls started pouring in shortly after midnight. Reports of burning vehicles in carports attached to apartments filled with sleeping residents in Hollywood and West Hollywood -- apparently the work of a serial arsonist.
By sunrise, firefighters had extinguished 19 suspected arson fires. The Los Angeles Police Department declared a citywide tactical alert, keeping officers working past the end of their shifts to help with the investigation.
One firefighter was injured while he battled a blaze. He was taken to the hospital and treated for back and neck injuries. No deaths were reported, but officials said they fear that the arsonist or arsonists could cause more damage if not caught.
"These are very serious fires with huge loss-of-life potential," said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Jaime Moore. "Because they are set on structures with sleeping people inside."
The first call came in at 12:25 a.m. at 7763 Romaine Street in West Hollywood, officials said. A vehicle was engulfed in flames in an underground parking garage adjacent to an apartment building.
Three minutes later, a caller reported a similar blaze at 1047 Genesee Ave., according to authorities.
While firefighters were battling those blazes, officials said, a call came in at 12:44 a.m. about a car fire four blocks away from the last fire, at Hawthorne and Curson avenues.
A fifth blaze, another car fire, was reported at 1:02 a.m. at Spaulding Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. Then at 1:22 a.m., firefighters were called to a house fire caused by a burning vehicle at 2000 N. Laurel Canyon Boulevard, authorities said.
At 2:00 a.m., firefighters were called to a car fire at 2472 Jupiter Drive. Ten minutes later, another call came in concerning a burning car at 1226 Harper Ave. in West Hollywood.
Then, within in a 20-minute time frame, six more burning vehicles were reported: at 2:34 a.m. at Yucca and Vine streets, at 2:35 a.m. at 1769 North Orange Drive, at 2:38 a.m. at 8021 Rothdell Trail, a three-car fire at 2:39 a.m. at 1156 N. Cahuenga Blvd., at 2:44 a.m. at Hollywood Boulevard and Bronson Avenue, and at 2:54 a.m. at Lexington Avenue and Cahuenga Boulevard.
Meanwhile, firefighters from various fire stations were pulled in to help contain the blazes. The arson teams of the Los Angeles Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Departments were also brought in.
At 4:07 a.m., firefighters were called to another vehicle fire at 1232 McCaden Place. Three minutes later, an apartment building at 1439 Poinsettia Ave. was evacuated after flames spread from a burning car, officials said.
Finally, at 4:16 a.m. reports of a vehicle fire at 1336 Citrus Ave. were called in.
Fire Department officials said authorities were swamped, first putting out the fires, then collecting evidence.
"There are so many; at this point, we're just trying to tally them all up," said Eric Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.
It's not clear if authorities are looking for one or multiple suspects.
Samuel Arrington, 22, of Sunland was arrested Thursday and charged with starting three fires earlier in the day. He remains in custody. Police questioned Arrington on Friday to see if he had knowledge about the recent fires, officials said.
"It's too early to say whether we have a copycat," Moore said.
No suspect has been arrested in the latest string of fires, but authorities are seeking possible links to the earlier blazes set along a five-block stretch of Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood.
-- Angel Jennings, Andrew Blankstein and Esmeralda Bermudez
Photo: Firefighters battle a fire in the 1400 block of North Poinsettia Place that started in the carport and spread to the apartment structure. Credit: Shawn Kaye