HOLLYWOOD (CBS) — The reward is up to $60,000 for the capture of an arsonist who police say set at least 21 carport fires within four hours, damaging cars, homes and apartment buildings.
Fire reports began pouring in just after midnight Friday. By dawn, crews had extinguished six fires in West Hollywood, and 13 more within the city of Los Angeles and LA County, including the Hollywood area.
Law enforcement and arson investigators have set up a command post in Hollywood to share information as they search for a suspect who remains on the loose.
Investigators have received reports from multiple witnesses that a person was seen leaving many of the fire scenes on a bicycle or motorcycle. Detectives confirmed the leads are credible since the person responsible for the fires was moving very quickly.
Kelly Falvey escaped a fire in her apartment complex and aided in the evacuation of her neighbors.
“I busted the fire extinguisher with my hand, and I cut my hand,” said Falvey. “And then I screamed for everyone to get out of their apartments.”
LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky was visibly angered at a Friday morning news conference. “We want to get these S.O.B.’s before they hurt somebody,” he said.
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran also did not mince words for the arsonist.
“What are you thinking?” asked Duran. “This is the most dense part of Los Angeles and West Hollywood. We have 20,000 people per square mile living in this area. One fire out of control could cost dozens of lives.”
Investigators say they have not determined whether there is more than one arsonist, but they believe they have solid leads.
“Because we did not have our fires called in simultaneously, we don’t think it’s multiple individuals,” said LA City Fire Capt. Jaime Moore. “But we’re not positive. We haven’t ruled that out.”
Later Friday, a vehicle was found burning in the parking garage of an LA Fitness gym near Hollywood Boulevard and North Sycamore Avenue in Hollywood. It was not clear whether that fire was the work of the same arsonist.
Officials were not sharing much information Friday, but one man whose car was torched said investigators found some helpful evidence beneath his car.
“They basically said that they found something, and they’re gonna take it for investigation,” said Mark Lopez. He said investigators told him they “found what they were looking for.”
Authorities are asking for the public’s help in apprehending the individual or individuals responsible for these crimes. Police urge anyone who sees something suspicious to call 911.