Harry Burkhart's Alleged L.A. Arson Spree Brings Formal Charges: 37 Counts of Setting Fires

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Wed, Jan 4, 2012 at 5:10 PM

click to enlarge Results of Monday morning arson fire in WeHo. - @GIGIGRACIETTE
  • @GigiGraciette
  • Results of Monday morning arson fire in WeHo.
Updated at the bottom with Burkhart's huge bail amount and a new court date. First posted at 3:27 p.m.

The man who authorities say terrorized L.A. with a three-day series of arson fires has formally been charged for causing most of the spree.

Harry Burkhart, the 24-year-old with apparent German citizenship, was hit this afternoon with "28 counts of arson of property and nine counts of arson of an inhabited structure," said District Attorney Steve Cooley.

Burkhart was scheduled ...

... to be arraigned in downtown Superior Court this afternoon.

Cooley states:

The current charges relate to arson fires at 13 locations in Hollywood, West Hollywood and Sherman Oaks between Dec. 30 and Jan. 2.

His use of the word "current" makes it sound like there could be more to come.

Although some believe it would have been hard for Burkhart to have sparked all 53 arson fires that happened from Friday to Monday in Hollywood, West Hollywood and parts of the San Fernando Valley, the blazes halted after the suspect was detained in a traffic stop shortly after 3 a.m. Monday.

Two people were arrested for a series of four fires Thursday that, strangely or not, seemed to take place with in shouting distance of the apartment where Burkhart stayed on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood with his mom.

So far no one's making a connection between those fires and the Friday-through-Monday spree.

Cooley alleged that Burkhart used "a device designed to accelerate the fire," an accusation that would add up to extra time if Burkhart is convicted.

The string of blazes, mostly sparked beneath cars parked below apartment carports, is said to have caused at least $3 million in damage.

Cooley noted that the seriousness of the charges would mean state prison time for Burkhart despite a California prison "realignment" that is shifting custody of thousands of California inmates to county jails.

[Update at 5:10 p.m.]: Burkhart, who was said to be "wobbly" as he entered court, saw his arraignment postponed until Jan. 24. The judge ordered him to remain behind bars in lieu of $2.85 million.

He was reported to have been on "suicide watch" in jail.

L.A. County District Attorney Steve Cooley -- the man himself -- was said to have been in the house for this appearance.

[@dennisjromero / djromero@laweekly.com / @LAWeeklyNews]

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