Mayor Villaraigosa 'encouraged' by arson suspect's detainment

Scorched car

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One of the burned cars outside Jim Morrison's former residence on the 8000 block of Rothdell Trail.

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Firefighters respond to a fire at an apartment complex in Sherman Oaks that spread to several cars early Monday morning.

Arson Fire

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The site of one of dozens of fires. This one in North Hollywood started early Saturday morning.

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Residents poured out of the apartment complex on Magnolia Boulevard in Sherman Oaks as firefighters flocked to the scene early Monday morning.

Assessing the arson aftermath

Tony Pierce / KPCC

Officials chat in front of 1434 Fuller Ave., one of the buildings damaged by arsonist who set at least 19 fires early Friday morning.

Mercer 13495

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (L) congratulates Los Angeles Police Department Deputy Chief Charles Beck after he was announced as the mayor's selection to be the new Chief of Police at a news conference at the Getty House, the official residence of the mayor, on November 3, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

While LAPD chief Beck says he is confident that the long arm of the law has caught up to the fire bug who wreaked havoc through Los Angeles county, the Mayor of L.A. took a more conservative (but optimistic) stance.

In a statement he posted on Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's Facebook wall, the mayor denounced the "individual with wanton disregard for the lives and property of Angelenos" and gave thanks that no one has been seriously injured.

"After another series of fires last night that brought the total to 54 since Friday, I am encouraged by the detainment this morning of a 'person of interest' in Hollywood," Villaraigosa wrote.

"While the investigation continues, I am thankful for the ongoing and relentless effort by the LAFD, LAPD and other agencies to respond to these incidents and pursue every lead toward an arrest in the case," the Mayor wrote.

The Mayor could be hesitant to immediately echo Chief Beck's tone because in May of last year Beck was "absolutely" confident that the LAPD had arrested the man who had brutally beaten Bryan Stow at the Dodgers' home opener.

LAPD Commander Andy Smith says that although the suspect has been arrested and his description and that of the van he was driving match those from witnesses, they haven’t released his name yet because they’re still investigating.

“This investigation is going to continue for the next few days," Smith explained. "Certainly our task force is in full operation, we’ll have extra officers out there tonight and we ask the people in the community to remain vigilant.”

He is also asking that citizens keep their outdoor lights on.

"If you have lights in your carport area, keep them on tonight," he advised.

Police have also detained two other people they believe may have set fires separately from the string of arsons.

Smith says most of the fires have erupted under carports in Hollywood neighborhoods. He says people have reported only two injuries – one firefighter fell off a ladder and another person suffered smoke inhalation.

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