Suspected Arson Attacks Up to 44 in Los Angeles, Sources Say

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

ByBy Richard Esposito and Olivia Katrandjian
December 31, 2011, 12:59 PM

Dec. 31, 2011 — -- At least 16 cars burned Saturday morning in Los Angeles bringing the total number of suspected arson fires to at least 44 over the last two days, sources told ABC News.

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.

Tonight, at least three fires that fit the arson profile were confirmed by the Los Angeles Fire Department.

Investigators have not determined 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 behind the blazes, 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," said one official involved in planning.

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.

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

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."

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