Four More Fires Set on New Year's Eve in LA in Possible Serial Arson Attacks

Police are looking into the prospect of a serial arsonist on the loose.

January 01, 2012, 9:58 AM

Jan. 1, 2012 — -- While Los Angelenos have been busy ringing in the New Year, firefighters are on high alert across the city. They responded to four more blazes Saturday night, bringing the total number of similar car fires to more than three dozen in the past two days.

In nearly every case, the fires were set in cars parked in and around the Hollywood area. In some cases, the flames spread to nearby buildings. So far, there have been no injuries as a result of the fires.

Saturday night's fires were put out quickly before spreading and investigators are probing the causes, fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey said. He could not say whether the blazes were connected to the dozens of others in the past couple of days, although all four fires on New Year's Eve resembled the more than a dozen set before dawn Saturday and the nearly two dozen a day earlier.

Investigators have yet to determine a motive behind the blazes, nor have they established whether they are the work of one person or the efforts of people acting together.

They are looking at all possibilities, especially the prospect of a serial arsonist on the loose.

San Fernando fire captain George Villegas says some people have been questioned for the crimes. "We've detained a number of people, none that we can say are legitimately connected to this investigation at this point," Villegas said.

Law enforcement sources in LA County told ABC News that the police and the fire department have built a unified task force coordinated by LAPD in anticipation of a long-term operation, should that be necessary.

"We are creating an 'org' chart with sustained 'ops' and multiple operational periods," one official involved in planning said.

The joint fire police task force is employing surveillance cameras and using air support.

Police said detectives are looking for a male driving a white and tan mid-1990s Lexus ES300 that was seen at one or more of the fires. No description of the suspect was released, and police did not give any further details.

Officials are afraid the fires will soon become deadly. Officials are offering a $60,000 reward for information leading to an arrest. Anyone with information is urged to call 911.

"We want to get these SOBs before they hurt somebody," L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yarolslavsky said.

Resident Carole Shandler says people are on edge: "Whoever set that fire had to know how close this apartment building was and it was done while people were sleeping and that's the scary part."

Damion Stephens, a resident of one of the building struck Saturday night, told ABC affiliate KABC-TV, "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," he said.

"They're without a car for now, and it's not a good way to start the new year, definitely."

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