Accelerant was used to stoke the massive DaVinci apartment fire downtown, officials with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said today.
The revelation came as the amount of prospective rewards for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any suspect in the case reached a rare $170,000. Officials with the ATF, Los Angeles Fire Department, and city of L.A. announced the reward amount at a press conference today.
A spokeswoman for the ATF told us agents were not specifying what kind of accelerant was used. But the presence of some type of malicious fuel for the fire would explain how the blaze seemed to erupt throughout the seven-story building almost instantaneously Dec. 8.
Evidence of accelerant indicates this wasn't just a kid playing with matches. It suggests whomever did this was serious about wreaking havoc.
The arson fire that destroyed an under-construction portion of the DaVinci apartment complex drew one-third of the city's on-duty firefighters, 250 in all, and could be seen for miles.
Flames melted signs on the adjacent 110 freeway and seriously damaged two nearby buildings, including one used by the city. Authorities estimated the cost of damage to be as much as $30 million.
Downtown Councilman Jose Huizar yesterday proposed a $75,000 reward for information leading to anyone convicted of sparking the blaze. The L.A. City Council is scheduled to vote on the offer Friday.
The cash was matched by the owner of the DaVinci, GHP Management, and the ATF has kicked in another $20,000, bringing the total amount of potential reward money to $170,000.
That's a nearly unheard of amount for a case that doesn't involve death. The council fairly routinely approves $50,000 rewards for hard-to-solve homicide cases.
The size of the DaVinci fire reward suggests that investigators don't have much to go on so far.
Last month fire officials distributed security video of two men seen in the area of the fire. Those two have yet to be tracked down, and investigators want to question them, authorities said.
ATF spokesman Thomas Mangan told us last month that the two were considered to be potential witnesses, not suspects.
The LAFD, paraphrasing the words of Chief Ralph Terrazas, called the DaVinci blaze "one of the largest structure fires we’ve fought in a generation."
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Firefighters based at LAFD Fire Station 3, nearly across from the DaVinci, on Fremont Street, awoke at about 1:20 a.m. Dec. 8 to witness the wood-framed structure engulfed in flames, authorities said.
A major, unrelated blaze then broke out later that morning as crews were still trying to douse the DaVinci fire. The second situation was a mile away, in the Westlake district.
"It’s a testament to the skill and dedication of the men and women of the LAFD that two major fires could be fought simultaneously without injury or loss of life at either fire," the department stated.