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Feds chasing fast-moving Hollywood arsonists

The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives has joined California fire investigators searching for arsonists torching cars at the height of arson season: New Year's. More cars burned Saturday morning.

A Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter waits for water to extinguish multiple cars on fire in a carport in the Sun Valley neighborhood of Los Angeles on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2011. For the third night in a row, a rash of arson fires has sent firefighters scrambling to extinguish car fires in various neighborhoods in Los Angeles.

Dan Steinberg/AP

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New Year's is high time for serial arsonists, research shows, and Hollywood firefighters are seeing that phenomenon first hand as they chase potential copy-catters who continued to set cars ablaze Saturday morning.

Since Thursday, suspected arsonists have set at least 30 car fires in a compact area of densely-developed Hollywood and West Hollywood, including around the famed Laurel Canyon area, where a car parked in front of a home once occupied by the late Doors' frontman Jim Morrison burned Friday morning, setting part of the home aflame.

Police say they have two people in custody, but the fire-setting continued Saturday morning.

Fire officials said the fires could be the work of a serial arsonist or a copycat culprit traveling between scenes on a motorcycle or even a bicycle. Saturday's fires came even as the fire department urged locals to keep their eyes open and stay vigilant.

So far, investigators have scant evidence to go on, as the perpetrators have for the most part appeared to have avoided video surveillance cameras. A $35,000 reward has been posted to entice residents with information about the fires to come forward.

While no one has been hurt, several homes and carports have sustained serious damage, raising the alarm at the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), which has sent agents to Hollywood.


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