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Hollywood arson rampage: Residents fear culprit may strike again

December 30, 2011 |  4:11 pm

BmW burned in arson fire
With at least one -– and possibly multiple -– serial arsonists on the loose after a rash of fires in West Hollywood and Hollywood, some residents were wondering where to park their cars Friday night.

At least 17 fires were set early Friday morning. Most targeted cars directly. Others were set in carports or underground parking structures.

At a carport in the 7700 block of Romaine Street where a fire broke out early Friday, Lillian and Rick Nothem said they hadn't decided whether to park in their nearby apartment complex's nearly identical carport.

"It's freaking me out," Lillian Nothem said. "What's triggering this?"

In the 1800 block of North Vine Street, a BMW parked in the back carport of an apartment complex was destroyed and much of it had melted. A Volkswagen next to it was also damaged.

MAP: Hollywood arson fires

Musician Zach Smith lives in the complex and said his neighbor owns the BMW and knocked fiercely on his and other tenants' doors early Friday to wake them up.

Smith said he walked out to see flames coming from the BMW's hood and engine. Neighbors tried to move the Volkswagen before the fire spread to it but were unsuccessful, he said.

"Straight fire," Smith said. "The whole hood in straight flames."

Lucas Dick, a comedian who lives nearby, said he is not particularly worried about an arsonist striking his car because "the trick is you've got to buy a cheap car."

He opined that if his old Toyota Avalon that he purchased for $900 "was set on fire, it would probably be an improvement."

The person or people responsible for Friday morning's string of fires in Hollywood and West Hollywood may have chosen cars because they're easy targets, one fire expert said.

"They're a quick source of fuel," said Robert Rowe, a fire investigator in Long Beach with nearly 30 years of experience. "You break a window, you throw some type of object inside and it burns quite vigorously with the plastic, the upholstery and the gasoline."


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-- Ari Bloomekatz in Hollywood

Photo: A BMW parked in the 1800 block of North Vine Street was one of numerous cars destroyed in a rash of arson fires early Friday morning. Credit: Ari Bloomekatz / Los Angeles Times