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German National Suspected In 53 Fires Charged With Multiple Arson Counts

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LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The suspect in a rash of arson fires across Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley was charged Wednesday with multiple counts of arson.

Harry Burkhart, 24, was charged with “28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure,” said District Attorney Steve Cooley.

“The current charges relate to arson fires at 13 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2,” Cooley added.

“The complaint also alleges that the arson was caused by use of a device designed to accelerate the fire,” he said. “If found true, the allegation could mean additional custody time for the defendant.

Burkhart will be arraigned Wednesday afternoon in a downtown court.

Officials say their investigation into the 53 fires is still ongoing and additional charges and actions could be brought against him.

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

He 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 her recent arrest.

Dorothee Burkhart is wanted in Germany on 19 counts of fraud for allegedly bilking apartment renters out of security deposits. She is also accused of failing to pay for a breast augmentation surgery.

In court Tuesday afternoon, Burkhart demanded to see her son and said she feared that he had been kidnapped, possibly by German Nazis.

Harry Burkart is also being investigated for arson in Germany where he filed an insurance claim after the family home burned down.

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