Hollywood arson suspect may face more charges
Accused serial arsonist Harry Burkhart is due in court Tuesday morning for arraignment on more than three dozen counts in connection with a four-day arson spree that taxed first-responders and terrified residents across Los Angeles.
Burkhart has been charged with setting at least 13 blazes, although authorities said they believe he set as many as 51 fires.
Los Angeles police and fire investigators said the 24-year-old German national was motivated by his hatred of America after federal officials jailed his mother, who was facing deportation.
Prosecutors may also file additional criminal charges in connection to more fires during the New Year's weekend arson spree.
The fires Burkhart is believed to have set were mostly in the Hollywood area, but also on the Westside and in the San Fernando Valley. Many of the blazes were in carports and driveways, and spread to apartment buildings and homes.
The first night of fires was concentrated in areas close to where Burkhart and his mother lived, in the Hollywood and West Hollywood areas. Over the next three nights, the arson incidents spread into the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood Hills.
Los Angeles police said they have physical evidence tying Burkhart to the arson spree, including fire-starting materials found inside his minivan when he was arrested.
The vast majority of the fires were started by what authorities described as a common briquette easily found in stores. The devices are normally used to start fires in a fireplace or grill, according to sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.
The sources said there is a delay between the time the briquette is lighted and when it burns hot enough to produce flames, allowing an arsonist to leave the scene before the blazes are detected.
Also, several witnesses have identified Burkhart as being near the scene of several fires, said the sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was ongoing.
Burkhart also is being investigated in an Oct. 14 fire in Schwalm-Eder-Kreis near Frankfurt, which destroyed a vacant house owned by the Burkhart family and put neighboring buildings at risk, German authorities told The Times. U.S. authorities said Burkhart entered the U.S. on Oct. 20 by flying into Las Vegas. Burkhart's family later filed an insurance claim for the blaze, the German prosecutors said.
Federal immigration officials said they believed Burkhart was in the United States on a visa due to expire in two weeks. Dorothee Burkhart, the mother of Harry Burkhart, told a federal judge earlier this month that her son is mentally ill.