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More arson fires in Hollywood overnight keep authorities busy

January 1, 2012 |  5:24 am


Hollywood was hit again overnight by a series of arson fires as authorities struggled to catch the person or persons responsible.

Officials reported at least four new fires Saturday night, including one caught on tape at the Hollywood & Highland shopping center on Hollywood Boulevard.

Firefighters responded after 7 p.m. following a report that a car inside the parking deck was on fire, said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Brian Humphrey. By the time they arrived, the fire was out, Humphrey said.

PHOTOS: 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 1035 N. Sweetzer Avenue in West Hollywood around 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.

MAP: 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 linked.

Most of the blazes were started on automobiles, but some spread to homes and apartments. The attacks 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 multi-agency campaign across the county.

FULL COVERAGE: Arson fires

"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."

Extra firefighters were reporting to stations across Los Angeles, Santa Monica, Burbank and Glendale, while investigators set up a telephone hotline, interviewed witnesses and ran down tips. Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to a conviction.

"We've reassigned detectives from Major Crimes Division and Robbery-Homicide, exclusively to find who's doing this," said LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith. "We've got dozens of detectives working around the clock."

Police arrested two people Friday on suspicion of lighting fires, but said they were not suspects in the arson rampage. Based on witness interviews, authorities said they were searching for a man driving a white and tan mid-1990s Lexus ES300. However, the large number of fires sparked over the two-day period led law enforcement sources to speculate that more than one arsonist was at large.

The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case was open, said it's possible some of the blazes were the work of copycats.


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Photo: Capt. Eric Stephens of the Los Angeles Fire Department goes under tape at an apartment complex in North Hollywood that was damaged by fire. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times