Rewards totaling $170,000 were announced Wednesday in connection with an arson investigation into a December fire that destroyed a downtown LA apartment under construction and damaged nearby buildings.
A reward of $75,000 will be considered Wednesday by the Los Angeles City Council. Another $95,000 will be contributed from private sources and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms.
The Da Vinci Apartments fire Dec. 8 destroyed the wood-frame structure, burned nearby office towers, damaged freeway signs and led to hourslong freeway and street closures. Officials with the fire and police departments, city of Los Angeles and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are expected at a morning news conference to announce the reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
"I've been doing this for 25 years, and I don't recall a reward this high," said agent Carlos Canino, of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "It's unprecedented because of the magnitude of this fire."
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The intense fire continued to smolder a day after firefighters responded to the burning building on Temple Street. Intense heat melted computers onto desks and shattered windows of a neighboring office high-rise building on Figueroa Street. Caltrans officials said overhead signs on the 110 Freeway were melted and will need to be replaced.
Los Angeles Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas called the "devastating" fire "one of the largest structure fires the LAFD has had in recent memory."
More than one-third of the department's on-duty firefighters responded to the fire. At the same time, more firefighters responded to a nearby fire in the Westlake District, stretching the agency's resources.
"The (reward) amount is quite high," said Councilman Jose Huizar. "I haven't seen something like this.
"It is well worth it in this instance. We certainly do not want to see something like this happen again."
Typical rewards in homicide investigations total about $50,000 to $75,000, he said.
Investigators announced Dec. 19 that the fire was an act of arson after they searched through about 75,000-square feet of debris, photographed the crime scene and recovered potential evidence for ATF lab analysis.
"The fire was a city block long," Canino said. "The debris field inside that building was 7 feet high. We removed tons and tons of debris."
Most of the debris was removed by using shovels because heavy equipment would not fit inside the structure, Canino said.
Investigators also interviewed people who were among the first to respond to the fire. They still would like to speak with two individuals seen on video near the site at the time of the fire, Canino said.
"We are not at a dead end, whatsoever," said Canino. "We still would like to speak with those two individuals we saw back in December.
"We're running down some leads."
The inferno caused about $25 million to $30 million in damage to the complex and two adjacent office towers.