Authorities believe a serial arsonist is on the loose in the Mt. Washington and Silver Lake communities, and while the damage so far has been limited to dumpster fires and Cypress trees, residents in the area are concerned things could escalate.
A cracking window is what alerted Walter Moguel to the fire right outside his home. The Mt. Washington resident told KTLA that he believes the fire was intentionally set.
“It was only later when I was being interrogated by the police and firemen and I said, ‘Well, how do you guys think it started, somebody came by with a cigarette or something?’ He says, ‘No. It looks like you have an arsonist in the neighborhood,'” Moguel explained.
Fortunately, firefighters were able to quickly respond to the blaze outside his home, and the flames didn’t spread, but the homeowner says he’s well aware that the outcome could have been very different.
“I don’t know how many feet away it is from my home, but it freaked us out,” he said. “I thought I lost my home basically.”
Neighbors in and around Mt. Washington, as well as those in adjacent Silver Lake, say they are unsettled after they counted anywhere from seven to 10 fires over just the last few weeks. Authorities with the fire department have warned residents that the fires could be the work of a serial arsonist.
“It’s putting us at an uneasy feeling,” Julie Casey, who lives in Mt. Washington, said. “Just like last night, we were home and when we heard a car pull up to our driveway, we immediately went outside to see who was in our driveway and that never happens in this neighborhood.”
Throughout March, according to Casey, someone has been driving around the area and using an accelerant to ignite Cypress trees, the theory being that they are an easy target because they’re particularly flammable.
“You can tell there’s a lot of fear about, ‘Am I next? Do I go to bed tonight? Do I stay up and keep an eye out?’” another Mt. Washington resident told KTLA.
Adam Kurtzman, who also lives in Mt. Washington, is yet another victim of the fires, and recalled the experience as one of total panic.
“It’s Los Angeles and it’s fire, it’s a bad mix,” he said. “I’m just hoping he or she doesn’t make repeat performances in the same neighborhoods. I don’t want to lose our house.”
Authorities with the Los Angeles Fire Department said they have collected a lot of helpful photos and videos from people who live in the area that they’re using in the investigation.
At about 10:15 p.m. Tuesday, the Los Angeles Police Department responded to the 300 block of Future Street, where a citizen reported that they had recognized the suspected arsonist from a flyer posted in the community.
Police found what they believe to be the suspect’s vehicle, which they impounded and are checking for fingerprints, according to Officer Moran.
Alberto Mendez contributed to this report.