2 arson suspects arrested after more than a dozen fires in L.A.'s Eastside, Chinatown

The Los Angeles Fire Department rapidly reversed a decision to put its social media accounts on hiatus and halt releasing records that show how long it takes rescuers to respond to calls for help.
Between 7 and 8 a.m. Wednesday, firefighters extinguished about a dozen "intentionally set vegetation and debris fires" in Boyle Heights and Chinatown, according to the Los Angeles Fire Department. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)

Two arson suspects were arrested Wednesday in connection with two separate series of fires that ignited first in Boyle Heights and Chinatown, and then later in Lincoln Heights, officials said.

Though the fires came days after a suspected arson blaze engulfed a section of the 10 Freeway in downtown L.A., shutting it down, authorities have not confirmed whether Wednesday's fires are believed to be linked to the freeway blaze, the work of a copycat or unrelated.

Between 7 and 8 a.m., city firefighters "responded to and quickly extinguished approximately 12 intentionally set vegetation and debris fires in the Boyle Heights and Chinatown area," said Brian Humphrey, a Los Angeles Fire Department spokesman. No injuries or structural damage were reported.

Read more: Under the 10 Freeway: Immigrant businesses scraped by while landlord dodged Caltrans

One suspect, who has not been named, was apprehended shortly after 8 a.m. and arrested on suspicion of arson. Witnesses saw the man riding a bicycle away from each of the blazes as they began to pop up farther west from the Eastside, police said.

"At this time, there is no known connection between this suspect and other fires," Humphrey said.

The LAFD Arson/Counter-Terrorism Section, working with the Los Angeles Police Department's Major Crimes Division, was immediately deployed to the area after the first series of fires was reported Wednesday morning.

The second arson suspect was arrested after a string of suspicious fires in Lincoln Heights around Avenue 33, Humphrey said. The two suspects aren’t believed to be connected, Humphrey said, noting that 164 arson arrests were made across the city last year.

Neither suspect has been named yet by authorities.

The slow-burning fires were east of the interchange between the 5 and 110 freeways. Multiple lanes of the 5 were closed just before 11 a.m. as firefighters worked to put out the fires.

Read more: Section of 10 Freeway damaged by fire will not need to be demolished, officials say

As of early Wednesday afternoon, the California Highway Patrol had closed some freeway lanes, as well as the transition roads from the northbound and southbound 5 Freeway to the northbound 110, along with the Avenue 26 onramp.

"This series of fires is considered suspicious and under active LAFD investigation as a possible criminal act," the Fire Department said.

Firefighters staged some of their vehicles at the Viertel's Official Police Garage tow yard on Avenue 33, across the Arroyo Seco from the 110 Freeway. Employees at the lot declined to comment about the fires.

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This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.