Man arrested in California arson probe

Los Angeles (CNN/AP) - Authorities have arrested a man in connection with dozens of suspected arson fires that have rattled Los Angeles residents since last week.

A sheriff's deputy stopped the driver of a van early Monday in Hollywood. The vehicle matched a description by witnesses, and the driver resembled the person in a surveillance video that police released.

The man's identity was not immediately released, but fire Capt. Jamie Moore says he will be booked on arson charges.

A total of 53 suspicious blazes, mostly started in parked cars, have raged since Friday night in and around Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.

At least eight new auto blazes erupted in Los Angeles early Monday.

The cars were set on fire within an hour in Hollywood and Van Nuys, Capt. Jaime Moore of the Los Angeles Fire Department said early Monday.

The new fires started hours after Michael Moriarty, a commander in the Los Angeles police department's detectives bureau, released surveillance video, showing a suspect.

"We have video of this individual in two instances" directly tied to recent fires, he said Sunday night.

"That person is out there, and we want to make sure that we apprehend him," city Councilman Tom LaBonge said, describing the fires as the work of an arsonist who struck "like lightning."

"There's nothing worse than something that can be prevented," the councilman said.

A joint task force that includes city and county fire and police department officials is investigating the string of fires.

It includes about 25 personnel from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that spokesman Patrick Gorman said would be on the scene by Monday.

These personnel have "special experience to determine the cause and origin of fires," Gorman said.

Moriarty said the law enforcement officers "executed a search warrant" Sunday morning at a single-family residence.

"We interviewed a number of people, (but) we did not make any arrests," he said.

There is a $60,000 reward in the case.

Police were asking residents in the area to bring forward any surveillance video from their properties that might show suspicious activity. Residents are also being encouraged to follow the "see something, say something" motto and report suspicious behavior to authorities.

Officials sought Sunday to show their commitment to finding the person or people behind the fires.

"We're not going to rest and we're going to put all the resources out there," Assistant Fire Chief Patrick Butler said.

They also asked residents to help deter the perpetrator by leaving porch lights on and locking their vehicles, as many of the fires were set using a car as the incendiary device.

"Auto fires, as soon as they get going, they get really hot, really fast," Butler said. "They essentially give off their own combustibles."

Some of the fires spread to nearby buildings, though no injuries have been reported. Among the homes damaged was one that was once occupied by The Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

"When you have millions of people living with millions of cars in these very dense neighborhoods, this is becoming a new form of domestic terrorism that really has got our community in a very bad spot," West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran told CNN Saturday.

In several cases, flames jumped to garages and apartment buildings. The fires have caused $2 million in property damage, but no one has been hurt.


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