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Search under way for Hollywood arsonist

An investigator works the scene where fire caused damage to a two-story apartment at 1156 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood, section of Los Angeles, on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

An investigator works the scene where fire caused damage to a two-story apartment at 1156 N. Cahuenga Blvd. in Hollywood, section of Los Angeles, on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

A Los Angeles Fire Department engine arrives at a fire in the Laurel Canyon section of Los Angeles on Friday Dec.30,2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. The fires started shortly after midnight and occurred over a four-hour span before dawn. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)

A Los Angeles Fire Department firefighter is shown at a fire in West Hollywood, Calif., on Friday Dec.30, 2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. The fires started shortly after midnight and occurred over a four-hour span before dawn. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)

Burning cars are shown at the site of an arson fire in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Friday Dec.30, 2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. The fires started shortly after midnight and occurred over a four-hour span before dawn. (AP Photo/Mike Meadows)

Los Angeles City firefighter Dane Jackson investigates the scene where fire caused damage to a home once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison, at 8021 Rothdell Trail in the Hollywood Hills, section of Los Angeles, on Friday, Dec. 30, 2011. An arsonist torched car after car early Friday, sending firefighters scrambling to put out more than a dozen blazes in Hollywood and neighboring West Hollywood. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu)

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities beefed up patrols and urged the public to remain vigilant following a rash of predawn arson fires that set vehicles ablaze, ignited some nearby houses, and left the Hollywood area reeling.

Fires were reported in nearly two dozen locations in Hollywood and the neighboring city of West Hollywood during a four-hour period before dawn Friday. In nearly every case, the fire started in a parked car.

Another car fire was reported around 7 p.m. Friday in an underground garage in Hollywood that fire officials were investigating for possible links to the series of arson blazes. Los Angeles Fire Capt. Jaime Moore said that a connection hasn’t been ruled out.

Arson investigators “consider it to be an incendiary fire similar to the fires from this morning,” he told The Associated Press.

Flames from torched vehicles ignited some nearby houses early Friday, including one once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

Officials announced at least $35,000 in rewards for information leading to the conviction of the person or persons responsible.

All of the fires were in a 2-square mile area and most were in densely populated residential neighborhoods where residents would likely be asleep.

Authorities were interviewing witnesses and looking for any video footage that may have captured the person, or people, responsible for the spate of crimes. Investigators from four agencies met for a strategy session, while Los Angeles officials summoned investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fire officials couldn’t say whether the rash of fires was the work of a copycat. There was a series of other arson fires early Thursday, also in Hollywood. Two people have been arrested and remain in custody for those blazes, officials said.

One of the homes was in Laurel Canyon, where Morrison and his girlfriend once lived, neighbors said. The winding road was the inspiration for the Doors’ hit “Love Street,” and the house was listed for nearly $1.2 million earlier this year, according to real estate website Zillow.com.

Sandy Gendel, who owns a nearby restaurant, said he heard explosions from what he later determined were likely car tires. He saw flames 30 feet high coming from the deck of the former Morrison house and a gutted Mazda Miata.

“It was just like a towering inferno,” Gendel said.

Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman Jaime Moore said it is plausible that one person in a car, on a motorcycle or on a bike could have set all the fires, considering the limited area the blazes broke out in.

Hollywood is served by the Los Angeles city police and fire departments. Adjacent West Hollywood is a separately incorporated city served by the Los Angeles County fire and sheriff’s departments.

___

Associated Press writers Sue Manning and Greg Risling contributed to this report.

Associated Press

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