Police and fire investigators on Friday were scrambling to investigate a series of 19 arson fires that ripped through parked cars in Hollywood and West Hollywood overnight.
“They are working around the clock to investigate these crimes and they are pursuing every single lead to apprehend any person or persons responsible for these dangerous and criminal acts,” said Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa Friday at a news conference.
Los Angeles County is offering a $25,000 reward for any information that leads to the apprehension or conviction of those responsible, said county supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky during the conference.
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Federal authorities at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives posted a $10,000 reward and the city is expected to do something similar, he added.
There were 13 vehicle fires started within the borders of the city of Los Angeles, and another six in West Hollywood areas patrolled by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
“We’ve called in additional investigative teams,” said Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore. “The county has brought in L.A. County Sheriff arson bomb teams, and the LAPD is on tactical alert.”
The fast-moving investigation is aimed at preventing the arsonist or arsonists from striking again, investigators said. On Friday, they hope to scour video from the parking garages where some of the cars were located in hopes of finding an image of whoever set the fires.
"This is an arsonist working," said LA City Fire Deputy Chief Mario D. Rueda. "These are very dangerous fires." So far, he said, only property has been damaged in the blazes, but "these fires can lead to loss of life and injury," Rueda said.
West Hollywood Mayor John Duran, representing an area where four of the 21 incidents occurred, heatedly spoke directly to the person or persons suspected of starting the fires at Friday's conference.
“What were you thinking?” he said. “This is the most dense part of Los Angeles. If you’re trying to say something, this is not the way to say it.”
Yaroslavsky voiced his discontent and reiterated that city and county officials’ were working to find anyone involved in the fires.
“We are very serious about finding those responsible,” he said. “We wanna get these SOB’s before they hurt somebody.”
Investigators hope to make enough progress on the case to prevent additional arson attacks over the holiday weekend.
Los Angeles City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who represents much of the Hollywood area where blazes were set, urged residents to call 911 or a fire hotline at 213-893-9800 if they have information about the fires, or if they see someone who appears to be preparing to set new fires.
The deliberately-set blazes come on the heels of another set of vehicle fires in the same area, for which authorities had arrested two people just a day earlier.
Officials would not say whether the two series of fires were related, but hinted that they hoped to gain enough information during investigations today to make sure that residents are safe throughout the New Year's weekend.