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Hollywood firefighters chase string of blazes started in cars by arsonist

Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

An investigator worked on the scene of a fire yesterday at an apartment building in Hollywood. An arsonist sparked fires at least a dozen locations there and in neighboring West Hollywood.

LOS ANGELES - An arsonist swept through the Hollywood area under the cover of dark early yesterday, torching vehicles whose flames ignited nearby houses, including one once occupied by Doors frontman Jim Morrison.

The four-hour onslaught started shortly after midnight and sent firefighters scrambling to douse fires in at least a dozen locations in Hollywood and the neighboring city of West Hollywood. In nearly every case, the fire started in a parked car. Authorities were preparing for possibly another round of fires, while searching for a suspect.

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Dozens of people were rousted from their homes, power was disrupted in several neighborhoods, and Los Angeles police were put on alert in the Hollywood area. One city firefighter was treated and released from a hospital after a fall from a ladder while battling one blaze. No other injuries were reported.

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 could not 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.

All of the fires yesterday were in a 2-square mile area, and most were in densely populated neighborhoods.

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.

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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.

Jeff Dorman, who lives in the neighborhood, said he and his wife were awakened by noise in the street.

As he and his neighbors watched the firefight, he said they worried about embers floating toward their houses because they are so close together. They also were concerned about a firebug being loose in their neighborhood.

“One spark could have been a huge problem,’’ Dorman said. “The fire department did a fantastic job.’’

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