Hollywood arson spree: Suspect may set fires as game, expert says
Robert Rowe, a Long Beach-based fire investigator with nearly 30 years of experience, said that in cases like these, what motivates an arsonist varies: They may be out for revenge, psychologically troubled or hungry for attention. For repeat offenders, he said, sometimes it's a search for a thrill.
"It becomes a kind of game to see how many more they can light until they finally get caught," Rowe said.
Until Friday, the most recent high-profile serial arson case occurred this past summer in North Hollywood when nearly two dozen fires were set over the course of two weeks. Most of them were ignited in cars in carports. A few spread to nearby structures.
An ex-Marine was arrested and charged in those incidents, which sent two people to the hospital for smoke inhalation. He is being on $2 million bail and has a court hearing scheduled for Jan. 23.
Los Angeles Fire Department officials on Friday acknowledged that the new string of fires was "highly unusual."
"As units were responding to one fire, they heard dispatchers describing other fires," Los Angeles Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said. "We've had nights like this where there were three or four -– someone was driving or walking around and setting [a series] of fires, but not something where they were targeting the community to this extent."
-- Esmeralda Bermudez and Andrew Blankstein
Photo: Firefighters battle a blaze in the 1400 block of North Poinsettia Place that started in the carport and spread to the apartment structure. Credit: Shawn Kaye