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Suspect In Rash Of Arson Fires To Be Arraigned Wednesday

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HOLLYWOOD (CBS) — The suspect in a rash of arson fires across Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley is scheduled to be arraigned Wednesday morning in Van Nuys.

Harry Burkhart, 24, was arrested at 3 a.m. Monday after a reserve deputy spotted him driving a minivan matching a vehicle description associated with the fires.

“Thank you to the two officers who backed me up,” Deputy Shervin Lalezary said at a news conference Monday. “As soon as I put on my lights and initiated a traffic stop of the suspect vehicle, I had an LAPD vehicle behind me ready to go.”

Burkhart is being held without bail for allegedly starting 53 fires from Dec. 30 to Jan. 2. The fires, which started in carports and often spread to nearby structures, caused an estimated $3 million in damage.

Detectives say Burkhart, a German national, likely acted alone. He had been living with his mother in a Hollywood apartment and was reportedly upset about his mother’s immigration status.

A parking attendant at Burkhart’s apartment complex described him as “quiet and anti-social” to CBS2’s Kara Finnstrom.

While no suspicious fires have been reported since Burkhart’s arrest, Mayor Villaraigosa and Los Angeles County Fire Chief Brian Cummings are reminding residents to be alert.

“Arson has been and will continue to be a concern for the members of the American fire service,” Cummings said. “We must remain vigilant against this scourge that causes over $1 billion in damage and injures over 7,800 civilians and firefighters each year.”

Villaraigosa warned any would-be arsonists against committing a similar crime.

“Know that we will find you, we will arrest you, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

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