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Guard Arrested in Probe of Fires

A security guard suspected of setting 14 brush fires was arrested early Monday after attempting to start a fire in a grassy area next to a Tarzana country club, authorities said.

Derek Kluft, 31, of Glendale was arrested shortly after 1 a.m. at the Braemar Country Club in the 4000 block of Reseda Boulevard, said Capt. Gary Seidel of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Kluft was later released from the Van Nuys Jail on $5,000 bail, he said.

Kluft, who is employed by a private security guard company, was under surveillance by arson investigators when he set fire to an area next to the club, Seidel said.

Kluft was still on duty when he set the fire, Seidel said, and went back to the club, where he was arrested a short time later.

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“We have been watching him for a while because there have been 14 fires in the surrounding area” within the last two months, he said.

Kluft had reported several of the fires and had assisted firefighters in extinguishing three of the blazes, Seidel said.

The fires, all started with matches, consumed a total of 25 acres, he said. No homes were threatened, and no injuries occurred in any of the blazes, he said.

“The motive appears to be a little vanity--recognition for his job--and a little bit of pyromania,” Seidel said of Kluft.

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Battalion Chief Gary Bowie said Kluft had worked as a security guard at the club since May. However, authorities declined to give the name of the company by which Kluft is employed.

A spokesman for the club was not available for comment.


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