Police are searching for the arsonist behind a series of fires in San Diego

Police are searching for the arsonist behind a series of fires in San Diego
San Diego resident Tim Gahagan stands outside his garage, which appeared to have been intentionally set on fire Monday, authorities say. (John Gastaldo / San Diego Union-Tribune)

Police are searching for an arsonist who set a series of blazes around the North Park and Hillcrest neighborhoods of San Diego on Monday morning.

The first fires were started in the beds of pickups parked on Boundary Street between Lincoln and Polk avenues about 4:40 a.m., said San Diego Fire-Rescue Department spokesman Lee Swanson.

A couple of hours later, several fires were started within blocks of each other in Hillcrest. The first one was in a Dumpster in an alley off University Avenue west of Herbert Street about 7 a.m., said San Diego Police Officer Joshua Hodge.

At 7:10 a.m., a garage was lit on fire on Herbert Street near Essex Street, Swanson said. The blaze was doused before it could spread to a nearby home, but it still caused about $30,000 in damage to the garage and an additional $25,000 in damage to the garage's contents.

Then, at 7:19 a.m., two Dumpsters were scorched near University and 10th avenues. Another Dumpster was burned in a shopping center near Vermont Street and University at 7:46 a.m., authorities said.

About 45 minutes later, another Dumpster fire was started, this time on Centre Street south of University. The blaze blackened the outside of a nearby apartment building but didn't cause any serious damage, Swanson said.

Fire investigators suspect all of the fires were intentionally set and are looking into whether they were set by the same person. At least one witness spotted a potential suspect. He was described as white, unshaven, in his 30s or 40s, about 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 160 pounds with a medium build. He was last seen wearing a gray shirt, a black jacket, black pants and a black hat.

A different man was arrested on a warrant as officers were investigating, but he is not suspected in the fires.

Twitter: @LAWinkley

Winkley writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.