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Arson fires continue across Hollywood area

December 31, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Fires continued to crop up across Hollywood on New Year's Eve, as arson investigators continue their suspect search.

The Los Angeles Police Department's Hollywood division said early Sunday morning that someone may have been detained in connection with the fires, but officials said no arrests were made.

The Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed as many as six new fires in the Hollywood area Saturday night, starting shortly before 6 p.m. That amounts to a total of 40 reported fires spanning from early Friday morning to late Saturday night - 19 on Saturday and 21 on Friday.

View an interactive map of the locations of the arson fires.

The first of the Saturday night fires was on the 6900 block of Fountain Avenue, where a car was set ablaze. The flames did not spread beyond the car, and no one was injured.

Damion Stephens, a resident of the building, ran outside after he heard someone banging on a door.

"It's actually really upsetting because this is just a working class neighborhood, and some of these people don't have full coverage on their insurance, and they're just stuck. They're without a car for now, and it's not a good way to start the new year, definitely," said Stevens.

Another fire was reported just a short distance away on the 1300 block of Citrus Avenue. A third fire was reported on Hollywood Boulevard and Orange Drive, and a fourth fire was reported on the intersection of Hawthorn and Formosa avenues.

At about 7 p.m., crews also knocked down a fire on 6100 Hollywood Blvd.

A fire also erupted at an apartment complex on the 1000 block of Sweetzer Avenue just south of Santa Monica Boulevard at about 10 p.m. The blaze burned up two vehicles in a detached carport adjacent to the apartment building, forcing residents to evacuate.

"By the time I got out there, the whole carport was engulfed. It's probably one of the craziest things I've ever see. Just engulfed completely," described evacuee Alex Vierra.

All of these fires were knocked down quickly by fire crews and no injuries were reported.

Of the fires, LAFD said the ones on Mansfield Avenue, Citrus Avenue and 6100 Hollywood Blvd. followed the line of previous arson fires they were investigating, as far as method of operation.

Police are looking for a mid-1990s white or tan Lexus with a male driver believed to be tied to Saturday's fires.

Several agencies have come together to track down the suspect or suspects responsible for the fires that have hit carports and apartment buildings over the last two days.

At least 13 more arson fires were set early Saturday morning, this time in the North Hollywood area.

This follows a night where 21 fires were set in the Hollywood area over a six-hour period. Authorities are searching for whoever is responsible.

View an interactive map of the locations of the arson fires.

The first was reported around 2 a.m. in a carport at Magnolia and Colfax. Two more were reported about a mile apart, on Riverside Drive and Burbank Boulevard. A fourth was then reported on Burbank Boulevard at Colfax.

A fifth was on Cleon Avenue in North Hollywood, a sixth on Kraft Avenue and a seventh on New Haven Street. An eighth fire was reported on Tuxford Street, and a ninth fire was reported on the 100 block of Hayworth Avenue.

A 10th fire was reported in West Hollywood in the 100 block of North Kings Road. The locations of the other three fires were not released.

"One of our greatest concerns is not the vehicles, but the people that are exposed to this," said Chief John Drake of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. "We're doing our best to maintain vigilance and pre-deploy in the North Hollywood and Hollywood areas in advance of where we might anticipate the individual's going to be."

The Los Angeles Police Department was temporarily on tactical alert Saturday morning.

Twenty-one fires were set over six hours in the Hollywood area in the early morning hours of Friday.

No serious injuries were reported, but the crime spree caused an estimated $350,000 in damage.

The fires began about 12:30 a.m., with 17 in the Hollywood area, including the Hollywood Hills, and four in West Hollywood. The fires mainly started in vehicles. At least six of the fires spread to structures.

A $60,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the capture of whoever is responsible.

"We are dead serious about trying to apprehend the individual or individuals who are responsible for this," Yaroslavsky said. "We want to get these S.O.Bs before they hurt somebody and we are very fortunate that last night nobody was hurt. One of these fires was less than three blocks from my own home."

A car fire was reported Friday night in an underground garage at an L.A. Fitness in Hollywood. Fire officials said it may be tied to the overnight fires in the area.

No one was injured and it involved only one car.

In the earlier fires Friday, extensive damage was seen at the location of one suspicious fire at an apartment building in the 1100 block of North Cahuenga Boulevard. Four vehicles were completely burned out, and the fire spread to the apartment above the carport, leaving windows covered with soot and smoke.

"I could have died with my children," said Hollywood resident Cindy Herrera, visibly choked up as she held her child.

At least two apartment units had to be evacuated.

About 50 people were temporarily evacuated from an apartment building in the 1200 block of Harper Avenue in West Hollywood, but they were later able to return to their homes. There were four other arson fires in West Hollywood - all beginning as vehicle fires in apartment carports.

In the Hollywood Hills, a home that once belonged to the late Jim Morrison of The Doors was also significantly damaged by a fire that appears to have a started with a car parked next to the home.

A firefighter suffered minor injuries while fighting the blaze at the Hollywood Hills home when he fell off a ladder.

"I think it's crazy. I think there's some sick people out there setting fires all over L.A.," said neighbor Evan York.

Los Angeles City Fire Batt. Chief Greg Gibson said whoever is setting the fires has no regard for human life or property.

Arson investigators were at every scene looking for evidence that will hopefully lead them to the suspect or suspects.

"An incendiary fire like this causes terror. It's intentional meant to make people afraid," said Los Angeles City Fire Capt. Jamie Moore.

On Thursday, 22-year-old Samuel Arrington of Sunland and another person was arrested after three arson fires erupted in a five-block radius in Hollywood within 15 minutes of each other.

Arrington was taken into custody after a worker outside a 7-Eleven saw him trying to cause more damage.

Police are unsure if Thursday's fires are connected to the rash of fires on Friday and Saturday. Police are asking for the public's help. Anyone with information is urged to call the Los Angeles City Fire Department at (213) 893-9800 or Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

See photos of the fire damage in Hollywood and North Hollywood.