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L.A. Fire Department asks public's help to crack arson rampage

December 31, 2011 |  5:28 pm


Fire officials say an alert citizen's tip could be key in cracking an arson rampage that for two nights has had firefighters scrambling to douse more than 35 suspected arson fires around Los Angeles.

As residents head out to New Year's Eve parties or stay home to clank pots, they should be on alert for anyone acting suspiciously, said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Someone lurking near cars in dark clothing or making strange sounds, such as breaking glass, should be reported to law enforcement, he said.

PHOTOS: Hollywood arson fires

 Don't discount strange behavior just because it's happening at home, Humphrey said.

 "We believe that someone knows something, but they just don’t realize it’s related to these fires,'' he said. "It could be someone coming home late at night wearing abnormally dark clothing, with visible burns and smelling like an accelerant."

Authorities warn that people should not confront a suspected arsonist but call 911 immediately. Tipsters also can report abnormal behavior to (800) 222-TIPS.

MAP: Arson fires

"Whoever is doing this is committing a felony,'' Humphrey said. "There is reason for us to believe an arsonist will have little regard for the lives of others."

He said the department's 18 arson investigators did interviews and sifted through clues Saturday. They have been joined by investigators from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, Los Angeles County Fire Department, neighboring police and fire bureaus and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Early Friday morning, 21 fires were started in a relatively small area around Hollywood and West Hollywood. On Friday night and Saturday morning, 17 more fires were reported. They were similar to the ones in the Hollywood area, but were spread out over a much larger area.


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Photo: Firefighters battle a fire in the 1400 block of North Poinsettia Place in Hollywood. The blaze started in the carport and spread. Credit: Shawn Kaye