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LAPD: Keep lights on tonight as arson hunt intensifies

January 1, 2012 |  3:16 pm

L.A. County firefighters extinguished a blaze at a carport in West Hollywood on Saturday night.
With nightfall approaching, Los Angeles authorities are urging residents to keep their outdoor lights on as police and fire officials try to catch the person or people responsible for nearly 40 arson fires in the last three days.

Officials on Sunday urged residents leave porch and carport lights on at night and make sure cars are locked. They also urged residents to report anything suspicious to authorities by calling 911.

Officials said Sunday that they have linked at least 39 fires to a series of arsons that began Friday morning in Hollywood. Most of the fires have occurred in the Hollywood and West Hollywood area, but detectives are not sure whether the arsonist or arsonists would venture into other neighborhoods. On Saturday morning, several locations in the San Fernando Valley were hit.

At a news conference Sunday morning, officials said many of the fires have been started in cars and in some cases spread to carports, garages and apartments.

But they declined to say what evidence tied the cases together or to give more information about how the fires were set. Law enforcement sources told The Times that detectives are concerned that releasing more information could prompt the arsonist or arsonists to change tactics and encourage copycats.

The sources said there was evidence connecting most of the fires. But investigators don't want to say what kind of fuel or ignition device was used, said the sources, who spoke on the condition of annoymity because the case was still ongoing.

One fire Saturday was caught on video at the Hollywood & Highland entertainment complex on Hollywood Boulevard.

Firefighters responded about 7 p.m. to a report that a car in a parking structure was on fire, said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Brian Humphrey. By the time they arrived, the fire was out, Humphrey said.

MAP: Arson fires

But a suspect's image may have been captured on one of the structure's video cameras; police were broadcasting a description of a white male in his mid-30s with a receding hairline and a ponytail.

Also on Saturday, Los Angeles County firefighters were called to the 1000 block of North Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood about 8:30 p.m. They found an apartment house carport with two vehicles on fire and spent 25 minutes dousing the flames, said Don Kunitomi, an on-scene fire inspector.

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

"We're pulling out all the stops," Humphrey said in describing the investigation. "We're hoping that the person or people responsible will be brought to swift and complete justice."


FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

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Photo: Los Angeles County firefighters extinguished a suspicious car fire Saturday night in a carport on North Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood. The carport is not attached to a building. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times