LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities arrested a man Monday in connection with dozens of suspected arson attacks that destroyed parked cars, scorched buildings and rattled much of the nation's second-largest city over the New Year's weekend.
The suspect resembled a "person of interest" captured on surveillance video. The man, believed to be 20 to 30 years old, had a receding hairline and a shoulder-length ponytail and was seen emerging from an underground parking garage on Hollywood Boulevard where a car fire was reported.
He was stopped by police early Monday in a van being sought by arson investigators.
Police declined to identify the suspect or reveal any motive for the fires, but he was to be booked later on arson charges arising from more than 50 blazes that have flared since Friday in Hollywood, neighboring West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley.
Firefighters have not responded to any other suspicious fires since the man was detained, Capt. Jaime Moore said.
The blazes caused an estimated $2 million in damage and forced many apartment dwellers from their homes. But there were no serious injuries — one firefighter was hurt in a fall from a ladder, and another person suffered smoke inhalation.
One of Saturday's fires occurred at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a popular tourist destination bordered by the Walk of Fame in a neighborhood that includes Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Damaged buildings included a former home of Doors singer Jim Morrison in Laurel Canyon.
Most of the fires began in cars. Authorities have not said how they were started. Investigators declined to provide any other immediate details, saying they did not want to jeopardize the case. A news conference was scheduled for Monday evening.
The onslaught of intentionally set fires left residents on edge over the holiday weekend in some of the most densely populated areas of the city. Hundreds of investigators, police officers and firefighters raced to deal with the blazes. Police conducted extra patrols all weekend, and the noise of helicopters and sirens persisted virtually nonstop in Hollywood.
Even long-time firefighters struggled to recall an arson outbreak involving so many fires. Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Division Chief James Lopez recalled a notorious case from a generation ago, when California arson investigator John Orr was sentenced to life in prison without parole for the 1984 killings of four people in one of multiple arsons he set over the course of years.
"Sometimes it's pathological in nature," Lopez said. "I think motives are going to be hard to come by. We may never know."
Investigators were still busy Monday mapping out the sequence of the blazes, examining more than 100 clues and interviewing witnesses.
The fires left behind a trail of smoldering debris. Police urged residents to check their cars for any signs of tampering and to take simple precautions such as locking vehicles, keeping garage and carport lights on at night and reporting suspicious activity.
Despite the arrest, authorities continued to urge vigilance.
"We're not resting, and we're not stopping" the extra patrols, police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said. "If you have lights in your carport area, keep them on tonight."
Some other deliberately set fires were reported Thursday in Hollywood, and two people were arrested. But police said Monday that those suspects were not connected with the 53 other blazes.