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Authorities struggle against wave of L.A. arson fires

January 1, 2012 |  9:38 am


Investigators were combing for clues from 39 separate fires as they struggled to halt a string of three days of arson blazes that has rattled Los Angeles.

At a news conference Sunday morning, L.A. fire and police officials said they had scores of investigators on the case and urged the public to remain vigilant and report suspicious activity.

"We have our best detectives on this," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

PHOTOS: Arson fires

Officials did not provide details about how the fires started. But they said many of the fires start in cars and in some cases spread to carports, garages and apartments. They declined to talk about any evidence they found at the scenes of the arson fires.

There had not been any fires linked to the arson series on Sunday morning. But Saturday night there were seven -- five in L.A. and two in West Hollywood. Overall, there have been at least 39 fires -- 32 in Los Angeles and seven in West Hollywood.

Smith urged residents to follow several safety tips:

--Keep lights at porches and carports on at night.

--Make sure cars are locked.

--Keep a look out and encourage neighbors to do the same.

--If you see anything suspicious, call 911.

Officials said they don't know if they are dealing with one arsonist or several.

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.

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.

"Whoever is doing this is really messing with people's lives," said Fire Capt. Jamie Moore.

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

Two fires were also reported in Glendale on Saturday night but it was unclear if they were linked to the serial arson cases.

Another fire was reported on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood early Sunday morning, but officials could not immediately say if it was related.

The attacks, geographically, have ranged from the Westside to Hollywood and from the San Fernando Valley south to Lennox. By Saturday night, the Los Angeles police and fire departments were leading a multiagency investigation across the county.

"We're pulling out all the stops," Humphrey said. "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: The Los Angeles County Fire Department quickly extinguished a suspicious car fire in a carport in Hollywood on Saturday. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times