LOS ANGELES — Police in Los Angeles distributed DVDs on Sunday featuring surveillance video of a man wanted for questioning in connection with a rash of suspicious car fires in the city.
The person of interest is a white male between 20 and 30 years old with a receding hairline and a shoulder-length ponytail, according to Officer Sara Faden. The man was seen on video Saturday after emerging on foot from inside an underground parking structure on Hollywood Boulevard that was the scene of a car fire.
Detectives estimated the man, who was wearing a bulky jacket, is between 5'6" and 6'1" tall.
Faden said investigators are asking for the public's help in identifying the man on the video.
Detectives spent early Sunday analyzing security video camera footage and following up on other leads after a half dozen more vehicles were set on fire on New Year's Eve.
The outbreak of arson fires has left a trail of smoldering debris in Hollywood, West Hollywood, North Hollywood and the Fairfax district of Los Angeles since Thursday.
Authorities said they were investigating a total of 43 suspicious fires. Most of those fires were set in parked cars. In several cases, flames have jumped to carports and apartment units.
"They are working on hundreds of clues, interviewing dozens of witnesses, picking up countless pieces of evidence," police Cmdr. Andrew Smith said of the detectives.
The LAPD is asking residents to leave porch and carport lights on at night and make sure cars are locked.
Authorities haven't said how the car fires were sparked or what was collected at the crime scenes. They were unsure if the rash of fires were the work of one arsonist or multiple people or copycats.
There have been no injuries.
Extra patrols were out in force on New Year's Eve. One of Saturday's attacks occurred at the Hollywood and Highland entertainment complex, a popular tourist destination and hotspot for holiday revelers. Firefighters responded to a report of a small car fire in a parking structure that was out by the time they arrived.
Firefighters routinely are called to put out burning cars, but this recent spate has been unusual because of the frequency and location of the fires. Crews have been responding to other emergencies despite the focus on solving the fire arsons, fire spokesman Erik Scott said.
Police urged residents to check their cars for any signs of tampering and take simple precautions such as locking their cars, keeping the garage lights on at night and reporting suspicious activity.
"We are not going to rest," Los Angeles Fire Department assistant chief Pat Butler said Sunday at a joint police-fire news conference. "We are going to work tirelessly."
Among the most pressing questions: Were the fires set by a serial arsonist, multiple people or copycats? And why target cars, apparently at random?
"It's really unnerving," said Gary Joseph, one of several neighbors who stood looking at the frames of four badly charred vehicles in a carport in North Hollywood. Joseph said there was no way to stow his own car and keep it safe.
"It's partly exposed, but there's nothing I can do about it," he said.
Sheila Kirk, who lives in the building next to the Hollywood freeway where the four cars were torched, said she quickly realized when she was awakened before dawn that the arson spree had spread to her neighborhood, though it's several miles northeast of where the fires were set the previous night.
"We'd heard all about the fires in Hollywood and West Hollywood, then we heard what sounded like a giant hose and ran downstairs and found everything burning," said Kirk, whose own car had a partly melted bumper despite being some 30 feet away from the cars that were set on fire. "It looks like they chose the spot where the cars were bunched together so they could do the most damage."