Police urge vigilance after Los Angeles arson attacks

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 01, 2012 7:18 PM
Police urge vigilance after Los Angeles arson attacks

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Los Angeles police are urging jittery residents to remain vigilant on Sunday after an unusual spate of arson attacks in recent days torched dozens of cars, authorities said on Sunday.

Fire officials reported five deliberately set fires in Los Angeles on New Year's Eve and early Sunday, and two arsons in nearby West Hollywood, bringing the total number of suspicious blazes since Thursday in those areas to 39.

Another arson attack was reported on Saturday in the nearby suburb of Burbank, bringing the total number of suspicious blazes since Thursday in those areas to 40.

Police have so far made no arrests in connection with the spate of fires, many of which have spread from cars to carports and homes, setting them ablaze.

"This is serious, and we definitely need to get this suspect into custody," police spokesman Cleon Joseph told Reuters, urging residents to be on the lookout for anyone acting suspiciously.

"Keep your lights on, be diligent, watch your surroundings. If you see anything, call 911," he added.

Los Angeles Police Department Commander Andrew Smith said dozens of detectives worked through the night to gather evidence and sift through clues.

"We've reassigned dozens of detectives," Smith said. "Those detectives are now working together around the clock... We've got hundreds of clues, dozens of witnesses, and countless pieces of evidence," he added.

So far, no one has been seriously hurt from the spate of arson attacks, but a firefighter was treated and released for injuries suffered at the site of one blaze over the weekend and another person suffered minor injuries on New Year's Eve.

One of the blazes damaged a house in the Hollywood Hills, where The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison was inspired to write the 1968 song "Love Street" about his girlfriend Pam Courson and what was then a hippie hangout.

Fire chiefs declined to say how the blazes were started, and detectives said it was too early to release security video recorded at the scene of some of the blazes.

(Reporting by Tim Gaynor; Editing by Cynthia Johnston)