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Hollywood arson spree: Cars make easy fire targets, expert says

December 30, 2011 | 11:18 am

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."

He said arsonists are motivated by all kinds of factors, including recognition, revenge or psychological issues.

MAP: Hollywood arson fires

"Some are just random acts," said Rowe, who used to work as an fire investigator for the city of Downey and now owns his own fire forensic business, Pyrocop Inc.

He said he expects investigators working the arson fires in Hollywood and West Hollywood will put together a grid of the incidents, logging their times and locations, and then search for a pattern. They then will likely to search each site for any evidence left in the ashes, he said.

"Their most important priority is to keep the public safe," he said. "And to keep more fires from happening."

Investigators are already canvassing residents in the affected neighborhoods, and Los Angeles Police Cmdr. Andrew J. Smith said video cameras may hold the key to solving the arson spree.

Police hope the cameras have captured images of the people or people who set the blazes.

Officials said police and Los Angeles Fire Department arson investigators don't yet know whether the rash of blazes Friday morning was the work of a copycat connected to three fires set 24 hours earlier in the same area.

A suspect was arrested in that case, but he may have had an accomplice or accomplices, Smith said.


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-- Esmeralda Bermudez