NEWS

Los Angeles police probe vehicle arson spree

01/01/2012 03:17 EST | Updated 03/02/2012 05:12 EST

Los Angeles residents are on edge after a total of 39 cars were set alight in the area since Friday, as investigators probe whether the blazes were the work of a serial arsonist.

"What's happening here is there's a pattern. Someone is putting something in cars or carports or garages," CBC's Lyndsay Duncombe said from California. "The cars start on fire, then that fire spreads to the garage or to a home, where people are living."

The apparent arsons have left a trail of smouldering debris in Hollywood, West Hollywood, North Hollywood and the Fairfax district of L.A.

"No one has been hurt. It's important to say that, but a lot of people are scared," Duncombe said, adding that a number of structures have been damaged in the fires.

Authorities have set up a joint task force of police officers and firefighters and are offering a reward of $60,000 for information leading to an arrest. Investigators are also reviewing security footage in an effort to identify a suspect.

Police have yet to say how the fires were started and whether they were the work of a single arsonist, multiple people or copycats.

West Hollywood Mayor John J. Duran, meanwhile, has described the spree as "domestic terrorism," Duncombe said.

In a sobering counterpoint to the typical revelry of New Year's Eve, fire trucks were stationed in neighbourhoods, police patrolled the city and switchboards took hotline calls. Seven more vehicles were set ablaze that night.

Firefighters quickly put out a car fire around 6 p.m. Saturday in Hollywood that "fits the profile of concern" authorities have been following for the arsons, fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.

"We're pulling out all the stops," Humphrey said. "We're hoping that the person or people responsible will be brought to swift and complete justice."

Officials have yet to set a damage figure for the blazes. In West Hollywood alone, however, they said the fires have destroyed about $350,000 worth of property.

Authorities are warning residents to be vigilant and to report suspicious activity to police.

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