Los Angeles rocked by three dozen arson car fires

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 31, 2011 12:13 PM
Los Angeles rocked by three dozen arson car fires

(Reuters) - About three dozen vehicles have been intentionally burned in the Los Angeles area the past two days, causing damage estimated in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and setting off a broad police and fire investigation.

No residents have been injured and one firefighter has been treated and released for injuries fighting the spate of apparently related arson fires that has triggered a broad local and federal response, authorities said on Saturday.

Police stepped up patrols and the fire department has planned to maintain a command post for the New Year's weekend in the area. Additional fire department arson investigators have been called in to review video footage, map where and when the fires were set and interview witnesses.

Investigators were trying to determine if the string of fires was set by one person or more than one person, said Officer Norma Eisenman, a police department spokeswoman.

Nine vehicles burned early Saturday in the San Fernando Valley, police said, and the Los Angeles Fire Department reported vehicle or structure fires at other locations.

The early Saturday fires followed on 21 intentionally set fires involving vehicles or car ports in the city and county the day before, according to the fire department.

The fires have in some instances spread to structures and the fire department provided a "conservative" estimate for $350,000 in property damage from the Friday fires alone.

Authorities were offering rewards totaling $60,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the arsonist, the fire department said.

No suspects were in custody Saturday morning, Eisenman said. Police released people who had been detained in the investigation after determining they had no connection to the fires, she said.

Investigators were going over numerous tips from residents and surveillance recordings from area apartment buildings, Eisenman said.

The investigation includes the U.S. ATF, the Los Angeles County Sheriff, Los Angeles County Fire Department and Beverly Hills Fire Department.

(Reporting by David Bailey)