An Atwater Village community remains on edge as an arsonist strikes again, lighting cars on fire as the neighborhood remains fast asleep.
In a typically quiet neighborhood in Atwater Village, a suspect is going around and lighting cars on fire. A few locals captured the flames on camera through surveillance video.
“I was woken up very abruptly about 12:30 by one of my neighbors telling me that our car was on fire,” victim Stephen Spaeth, tells KTLA’s Pedro Rivera.
Late Halloween night, Spaeth rushed to his front yard and spotted his beloved vehicle, a Volvo C-30, completely engulfed in flames.
“I had it for about 15 years,” says Spaeth. “I’ve driven it across the country, I’ve taken it all over the place. So many memories and I wasn’t ready to let it go and it kind of sucks that somebody else made that choice for me.”
Spaeth says the flames were so large, they began spreading to nearby trees and foliage. He quickly grabbed a garden hose to douse the growing blaze, hoping to keep it from spreading to his house while awaiting fire crews.
“The ground here in front of the tree as well as the slide of the tree got caught on fire a little bit,” says Spaeth.
Although surveillance videos weren’t able to clearly capture the suspect, investigators believe the arsonist lit the flames from the vehicles’ rear areas.
Locals say the attacks seem to have escalated over time, from trash cans to vehicles.
“This is the first occurrence of something of this magnitude, but we have been hearing more and more of fires starting in trash cans and stuff,” says Spaeth.
On Oct. 24, a nearby resident on Glendale Blvd. also discovered her car was set on fire overnight. She says it appears the fire began after something was thrown underneath the car, similar to Spaeth’s incident.
Spaeth says he knows at least five other people in the neighborhood who have had their vehicles or backyards burned over the last month.
Residents are hoping those responsible are caught soon before things escalate even further.
“Maybe they can catch whoever is doing this,” says Spaeth. “Maybe we can avoid a house fire and losing a life at this point, because a car can be replaced, but a life is a little harder.”
The Los Angeles Fire Department is investigating the case, while officers with the Los Angeles Police Department have increased patrolling in the area. Police do not have a suspect description at this time.
As for Spaeth, although he has insurance, he doesn’t expect a big payout as his car is an older model. He has started a GoFundMe campaign to raise money to purchase a used vehicle.