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Investigators identify 'person of interest' in Los Angeles freeway arson fire

Freeway Fire-Los Angeles
Posted at 4:26 PM, Nov 18, 2023

Investigators on Saturday identified a "person of interest" in the Los Angeles arson fire last week that closed a central freeway for days, snarling traffic as repair crews work around the clock to fix it.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, known as Cal Fire, and the State Fire Marshal released two photos in a "crime alert notification" posted to social media and said it was seeking the public's help to identify the person.

The individual was described as a man 30 to 35 years old, about 6 feet (1.83 meters) tall and weighing between 170 pounds (77 kilograms) and 190 pounds (86 kilograms). Details about how he was identified were not immediately released.

The photographs show him wearing blue shorts, a black hooded sweatshirt, a green scarf and a brace on the right knee. The individual is carrying a backpack and "appears to have visible burn injuries" on the left leg, the bulletin states.

Representatives for the mayor, the governor and the state fire marshal did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The state fire marshal oversees the agency's Arson and Bomb Unit, which is investigating the fire.

All lanes of Interstate 10 near downtown are expected to reopen by Tuesday, far ahead of the initial three-to-five week schedule. Crews were brought in to shore up the mile-long stretch after the blaze last Saturday burned about 100 support columns.

The fire spread quickly over 8 acres (3 hectares) and was fed by pallets, cars, construction materials, hand sanitizer and other items being stored under the freeway in an industrial neighborhood. No injuries were reported, but at least 16 homeless people living in an encampment there were taken to shelters.

The arson investigation was ongoing, officials said. No arrests have been made, and Gov. Gavin Newsom has said investigators are trying to determine if more than one person was involved.

An estimated 300,000 vehicles use the stretch of freeway daily, which runs east-west across the heart of the metropolis and connects with other major highways. The city has been urging people to avoid the area, take buses and trains or work from home.