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Investigators Search for Arsonist who Sets Trees Ablaze

March 25, 1990

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ More than 100 of this area’s trademark palm trees have caught fire over the last five months, and investigators suspect an arsonist, possibly working with a driver, is to blame, officials said.

Some of the fires have spread to nearby houses or cars, doing minor damage, said Fire Battalion Chief William Burmester.

Burmester said he was worried the consequences of future blazes could be more serious. ″There is always a danger, even with a guy like this who is not setting large fires,″ he said.

Most of the 104 fires since October have occurred in early evening in the adjoining suburbs of Reseda, Canoga Park and Northridge about 20 miles north of downtown Los Angeles. On several occasions, trash rather than trees was set on fire.

The outbreak represents the largest number of apparently related arsons in memory, arson investigators said. No motive has emerged.

On Jan. 23, a 16-year-old Reseda boy with emotional problems was arrested after admitting he set fire to palm trees and trash in copycat arsons.

Arson investigator Glen Lucero said there may be other copycats at work, but suspected that most of the fires were set by one person or perhaps two people working together.

″The fires are set so quickly,″ Lucero said. ″It could be one guy lighting them and somebody else doing the driving.″

″It is almost completely random as far as the locations go,″ said fellow investigator Bill Cass. ″Recently, he’s been more interested in trees than trash. We don’t know what that means.″

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