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Man detained in L.A. arson fires drove blue minivan, officials say

Fire-starting materials found in van, police say

The “person of interest” being questioned in the spate of L.A. arson fires was driving a blue minivan when he was detained Monday morning, officials say.

Little is known about the man. A law enforcement source told The Times that the minivan had Canadian license plates  but that detectives believe the man might originally be from Germany.

PHOTOS: Arson fires

Several sources said the man was believed to be the person seen on a surveillance video released by police on Sunday. However, in a statement, a Los Angeles fire official stressed, “It is too early to speculate if this person is responsible for the spree of arson fires.”

The detention followed a morning of rapid-fire reports of arson fires across the Hollywood area Monday. Eleven fires were reported in two hours, beginning at 1:30 a.m., most to cars and carports in apartment complexes, police and fire officials said.

MAP: Arson fires

A total of 55 "fires of concern" have been reported in the Los Angeles area since Friday, possibly the work of one arsonist, a fire official said early Monday.

Of those 55 fires, 45 occurred in the Los Angeles area, another nine were in West Hollywood, and one was in Burbank, Erik Scott, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department, wrote in a post on LAFD Alert, the department's blog.

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

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.

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 were concerned that releasing more information could prompt the arsonist or arsonists to change tactics and could encourage copycats.

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FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

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Photo: Los Angeles police examine a vehicle taken into custody with a "person of interest" who was detained in connection with a string of arson fires. Credit: Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times

 
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