Parked cars targeted in predawn rash of fires
LOS ANGELES – An arsonist or arsonists swept through the Hollywood area under the cover of dark early Friday, torching vehicles whose flames ignited nearby houses, including one once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.
The four-hour onslaught started shortly after midnight and sent firefighters scrambling to douse fires in 21 locations in Hollywood and the neighboring city of West Hollywood. In nearly every case, the fire started in a parked car.
Authorities ruled out any possible link to terrorism while bracing for another round of fires and continuing the search for a suspect.
“We are hoping for the best but anticipating and preparing for the worst,” Los Angeles City Fire Chief Brian Cummings said.
Los Angeles officials urged continued public vigilance Friday and offered at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to the conviction of an arsonist or arsonists.
County supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says the county is offering a $25,000 reward and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is adding another $10,000 to the reward.
Dozens of people were rousted from their homes, power was disrupted in several neighborhoods and Los Angeles police were put on alert in the Hollywood area. One city firefighter was treated and released from a hospital after a fall from a ladder while battling one blaze. No other injuries were reported.
All of the fires on Friday were in a 2-square mile area and most were in densely populated residential neighborhoods where residents would likely be asleep.
“This is the most dense part of Los Angeles and West Hollywood. We have 20,000 people per square mile living in this area. One fire out of control could cost dozens of lives,” said John Duran, mayor of West Hollywood where four of the fires were set.
“Turn yourself in whoever you are. Stop it, stop it. We will not tolerate this in West Hollywood, in Los Angeles or anywhere in our neighborhoods,” Duran said.
Authorities were interviewing witnesses and looking 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.
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