More arson fires break out in Hollywood - CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8

More arson fires break out in Hollywood

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LOS ANGELES (CNS) - Los Angeles firefighters were getting ready for a busy night, as the normal chaos and bedlam of a giant city celebrating New Year's Eve on a balmy Saturday night will be augmented by the danger of a sudden outbreak of arson in and around Hollywood.

"Our crews have been told they are going to be busy tonight, no question about it," said firefighter Brian Humphrey, a veteran paramedic and department spokesman who has seen numerous New Year's Eve trends like shooting guns in the air and gigantic rave parties come and go.

"We are going into what we call `augmented dispatch,' where we send extra crews to every call," he told City News Service. "If things get busy in one part of town, we will move crews in from another.

"People forget we will have all the extra and normal traffic that we normally have (on a holiday), like people having babies, and traffic crashes after midnight," he said.

Although two alleged arsonists remained in jail today, another dozen or so vehicles were torched in Los Angeles before dawn today, this time in the eastern San Fernando Valley.

Nine separate fires were set Saturday in North Hollywood and other neighborhoods north of the Hollywood Hills, destroying between 11 and 13 vehicles and scorching some apartment units above the burning hulks. A similar fire burned a vehicle just over the line in Burbank, and an exact total of destroyed vehicles was not immediately available from police or fire spokespersons.

On Thursday and Friday, 17 cars or small trucks were torched south of the hills, in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles and in the adjacent municipality of West Hollywood.

"This is a significant event taking place here in the San Fernando Valley, as well as other parts in the city." said LAPD Cmdr. George Villegas.

But police stopped short of saying that the city is seeing a rash of copycat arsons, mostly aimed at vehicles sitting in open-air garages sitting beneath upstairs residential units.

"We've detained a number of people, but none that we can say are legitimately connected to this investigation at this point," Villegas said. No one has been held or charged with the recent string of fiery vandalism, he said.

The only clues released by police so far have been a sighting of a man driving a white-and-tan, mid-90s model Lexus ES300, and the police offering their theory that today's fires were consistent with those set by arsonists in the Hollywood and West Hollywood over the prior two nights.

The arsonist is apparently using some kind of Molotov cocktail, perhaps in a container able to penetrate car-window glass, police have said.

Fires were reported in the eastern San Fernando Valley at about 1:30 a.m. today, with three or four cars going up in flames under an apartment building near Burbank Boulevard and Colfax Avenue. Other fires were reported in carports on Riverside Drive near Colfax Avenue, Weddington Street, Cleon Avenue, Fulcher Avenue, Stagg Street, on Tuxford Street or Place and on New Haven Street.

Several people were believed to have been forced out of their apartments Saturday, but police and fire officials were tight-lipped about their investigations. At least one person was said to be complaining of chest pain at the scene of one fire.

Burbank police reported an apparent arson outside a house on Rose Street, just east of the L.A. city limit, at 2:30 a.m. Saturday.

"It was a vehicle fire, possibly arson. Burbank arson investigators responded to the scene," police Sgt. Scott Meadows said. "It's close to the North Hollywood border -- and they (North Hollywood) had some fires at the same time."

At a 6 a.m. news conference in North Hollywood, Villegas said police went on citywide tactical alert at 2:31 a.m., and ended that status three hours later, A tactical alert means police stay on overtime at the end of their shifts, and redeploy to assist police efforts in an affected area.

Watch commanders from all police stations have been notified to report any incidents they believe may be related to the fires to the department's Operations Command as a better way to monitor the situation, a police spokeswoman said.

"We are working with the Los Angeles (City) Fire Department in terms of the crime scene investigations, trying to look for the suspects," said Villegas at the 6 a.m. news conference.

On Thursday night and early Friday, 17 fires were set in Hollywood and five others in next-door West Hollywood. Most started in cars, and one spread to destroy a house on Rothdell Trail in the Hollywood Hills where "Doors" frontman Jim Morrison wrote the song "Love Street" about girlfriend Pam Courson.

City and county officials have offered a $60,000 reward for information leading to the culprit. Tips can be called into city firefighters at (213) 893-9800, county firefighters at (800) 633-2836.

"We are dead serious about trying to apprehend the individual or individuals who are responsible for this. We want to get these S-O-Bs before they hurt somebody," county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said at a Friday news conference. "One of these fires was just less than three blocks from my own home."

Several suspects were questioned by police after the original arsons, and one of them remained jailed as additional cars were torched today. Samuel Arrington was arrested by Los Angeles police near La Brea Avenue and Sunset Boulevard about 1:30 a.m. Thursday for allegedly setting a fire in a garbage can outside a 7-Eleven and trying to ignite a fuel tank on a truck, police said.

Arrington was also suspected in a 1:12 a.m. trash bin fire at 1444 Poinsettia Place and a carport fire at 1434 Fuller Ave., where four vehicles and an apartment were damaged, city firefighters said Thursday.

Arrington, booked on suspicion of attempted arson, was jailed in lieu of $75,000 bail.

Alejandro Pineda was arrested in a rubbish fire at 1347 McCadden Place at 4:29 a.m. Friday, fire officials said. Pineda was booked for arson of property and is being held in lieu of $50,000.

THIS IS AN UPDATE TO THE PREVIOUS STORY BELOW.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Several more cars burned in suspected arson attacks in the Los Angeles area early Saturday morning, and authorities investigated if they were connected to nearly two dozen deliberately set blazes a day earlier, police said.

Seven or eight cars burned Saturday in the North Hollywood area, said officer Robert Collier.

He said he didn't have further details of the blazes, but said arson is suspected and there could be a link to the earlier blazes.

"We believe there might be, but we don't know for sure," he said.

Fire officials said the first report came in shortly after midnight, and the most recent about three hours later.

Early Friday morning, fires were reported in nearly two dozen locations in Hollywood and the neighboring city of West Hollywood during a four-hour period before dawn. In nearly every case, the fire started in a parked car.

Flames from torched vehicles ignited some nearby houses early Friday, including one once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

But Collier said that although some of Saturday's blazes are in carports and garages, he didn't have any reports of damage to buildings.

Police up a command post in the North Hollywood area and have called a tactical alert, allowing them to call in more officers.

No arrests have been made and no injuries reported.

Another car fire was reported around 7 p.m. Friday in an underground garage in Hollywood that fire officials were investigating for possible links to the series of arson blazes. Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore said that a connection hasn't been ruled out.

Arson investigators "consider it to be an incendiary fire similar to the fires from this morning," he told The Associated Press.

The new fires broke out even as authorities beefed up patrols and urged the public to remain vigilant overnight.

Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.

All of the Friday's fires were in a 2-square mile area and most were in densely populated residential neighborhoods where residents would likely be asleep.

Authorities interviewed witnesses and looked for any video footage that may have captured the person, or people, responsible for the spate of crimes. Investigators from four agencies met for a strategy session, while Los Angeles officials summoned investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fire officials couldn't say whether the rash of fires was the work of a copycat. There was a series of other arson fires early Thursday, also in Hollywood. Two people have been arrested and remain in custody for those blazes, officials said.

One of the homes was in Laurel Canyon, where Morrison and his girlfriend once lived, neighbors said. The winding road was the inspiration for the Doors' hit "Love Street," and the house was listed for nearly $1.2 million earlier this year, according to real estate website Zillow.com.

Sandy Gendel, who owns a nearby restaurant, said he heard explosions from what he later determined were likely car tires. He saw flames 30 feet high coming from the deck of the former Morrison house and a gutted Mazda Miata.

"It was just like a towering inferno," Gendel said.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Jaime Moore said it is plausible that one person in a car, on a motorcycle or on a bike could have set all the fires, considering the limited area the blazes broke out in.

Hollywood is served by the Los Angeles city police and fire departments. Adjacent West Hollywood is a separately incorporated city served by the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff's departments.

___

Associated Press writers Sue Manning and Greg Risling contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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