As many as a half-dozen arson fires, including a blaze that damaged a strip mall and an adjacent apartment building, broke out along Ventura Boulevard in Sherman Oaks, according to authorities and news reports.
The blazes, mostly rubbish fires, started about 8:40 p.m. and were centered around the 13000 block of Ventura Boulevard, LAPD Officer Sally Madera told the Weekly. No injuries were reported, but a description of an arsonist on the loose in the area had police on alert:
The worst of the fires appears to have been at a strip mall at 13912 Ventura Blvd. It started at 8:53 p.m. and was put out in 17 minutes., according to the L.A. Fire Department's Katherine Main.
Thirty-five firefighters worked on the blaze, she said.
According to television news reports, that fire spread to an apartment building behind the strip mall, but no injuries were reported.
The suspect was described as a 6-foot-tall man who was heavyset, Madera said.
Arson investigators were at the scene, she said.
[Update at 12:42 p.m. Thursday]: A man who cops say is a "person of interest" was taken into custody in the area and ultimately arrested this morning on an unrelated parole violation.
LAPD Officer Drake Madison tells the Weekly the man was taken into custody shortly after midnight near Katherine Avenue and Moorpark Street in Sherman Oaks.
Authorities discovered he was wanted on a parole-violation warrant, so they arrested him for that as LAFD arson investigators continue to try to figure out if he might be connected to the blazes, Madison said.
Because the guy is not yet officially a suspect in the arson case, his name was not being released, the officer said.
It wasn't clear if he fit the description of a 6-foot-tall heavyset man, he said.