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Manhunt Launched for Serial Arsonist

By Edwin Folven, 12/30/2011

Twenty-One Fires are Ignited in Hollywood, West Hollywood

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A manhunt has been launched to find the suspect or suspects responsible for intentionally starting 21 fires in Hollywood and West Hollywood early Friday morning.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (center) appealed for the public's help in identifying the arsonist, and was joined by L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge (left), West Hollywood Councilmembers Jeffrey Prang and Abbe Land, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore, and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky. (photo by Edwin Folven).

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, 3rd District, and L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge, 4th District, held a joint news conference on Dec. 30 with law enforcement and fire department officials to ask the public for tips that may lead to the person or persons responsible. A reward totaling $35,000, including $25,000 from the county of Los Angeles, and $10,000 from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, was announced for information leading to an arrest and conviction. LaBonge said the city council will also consider a motion to increase the reward by an additional $25,000.

“We are dead serious about apprehending the individual or individuals responsible for starting these fires,” Yaroslavsky said. “We want to get these S.O.B.s before they hurt somebody.”

Firefighters from both the Los Angeles Fire Department and the L.A. County Fire Department were scrambling throughout the early morning hours on Dec. 30 to extinguish the blazes, which were ignited in apartment building carports and under vehicles over a large area stretching from Harper Avenue in West Hollywood to the Hollywood (101) Freeway, and north into the Hollywood Hills. Four of the fires occurred in West Hollywood, while the others were reported in Hollywood. Authorities initially said there were 19 fires, but revised the number to 21 late Friday based on investigations conducted throughout the day. The Los Angeles Police Department issued a tactical alert overnight to keep as many officers on duty as possible, and are asking the public for videotape that may help them identify the arsonist.

Detectives are also investigating whether the fires Friday morning are in any way connected to three others ignited in Hollywood approximately 24 hours earlier. A 22-year-old suspect was arrested Thursday in connection with those fires, which were intentionally set around 1:15 a.m. on Dec. 29 near Sunset Boulevard and Fuller Avenue, and Sunset Boulevard and Poinsettia Place. A witness reportedly identified the suspect, Samuel Arrington, who was in custody when the fires occurred Friday morning. Authorities are considering whether the 21 fires on Dec. 30 were ignited by a copycat.

“The incidents are all under investigation, and we are moving as quickly as possible to figure out who is involved,” LAFD spokesperson Erik Scott said. “Our investigators are working around the clock.”

One of the fires in West Hollywood was started in a carport at 1045 N. Genesee Avenue. (photo by Edwin Folven).

LAPD commander Andrew Smith said extra patrols have been established throughout Hollywood, and authorities are working in conjunction with sheriff’s deputies in West Hollywood, where patrols have also been increased.

Quvondo Johnson, a spokesperson for the L.A. County Fire Department, which serves West Hollywood, said that city’s four fires were all set under vehicles parked in carports or adjacent to apartment buildings. No injuries were reported and the flames were contained to the parking areas, but smoke damage did occur in some units.

“We were very busy responding to all the reports, and also provided some mutual aid to the firefighters in Hollywood,” Johnson said. “It’s very taxing for our resources, so we moved some engines up to the area. We have a plan in place just for this type of thing.”

Johnson said the first fire in West Hollywood was reported at 12:22 a.m. in a carport at 7763 Romaine St. Firefighters had just extinguished that blaze when another report came in at 12:38 a.m. about a fire in a carport at 1045 N. Genesee Ave. Two additional blazes were later reported near the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and Spaulding Avenue, and at 1200 N. Curson Ave. Johnson said all of the fires took approximately 10 to 15 minutes to extinguish.

Scott did not have the exact times and specific information about all of the fires in Hollywood, but some of the locations included Curson and Hawthorn, Citrus and DeLongpre, Lexington and Cahuenga, Yucca and Vine, Hollywood and Bronson, Franklin and Orange, the 1700 block of North Orange Drive, the 7600 block of West Lexington Avenue, and the 1200 block of North McCadden Place. Additional fires were reported on Jupiter Drive, and on Rothdell Trail, in the Hollywood Hills.

Scott said no civilians were injured in the Hollywood fires, but one firefighter suffered a neck injury while fighting the blaze on Rothdell Trail when he fell from a ladder. The firefighter was hospitalized in stable condition, Scott added. The property at 8021 Rothdell Trail was formerly owned by Jim Morrison of The Doors. The blaze, which was reportedly started under a vehicle in front of the house, was extinguished in approximately 35 minutes and was contained to the façade and a balcony at the structure.

Villaraigosa called on residents to report any suspicious activity to 911, and tips can also be submitted to the LAFD’s Arson Unit at (213)893-9800, or the LAPD’s Hollywood Division at (213)972-2971.

 

 

 

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