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Details of L.A. arson fires being kept secret for now

January 1, 2012 | 12:31 pm


Authorities are releasing few details about the arson fires that have hit Los Angeles in the last three days, fearing that publicizing key facts could jeopardize their investigation.

Officials said Sunday that they have linked at least 39 fires to a series of arsons that began Friday morning in Hollywood.

But they declined to say what evidence tied the cases together or 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 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.

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.

"I'm not going to speak anything about the type of devices'' the suspect or suspects used, said Los Angeles Fire Department Assistant Chief Pat Butler.

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.

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

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

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

Officials urged residents to follow several safety tips:

--Leave porch and carport lights 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.


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