Glendale arson investigators culled dozens of tips from the public Friday but said they had come up with no new useful information in an expanding search for an arson suspect. in Wednesday’s San Rafael Hills fire.
Glendale Fire Capt. John Orr said Friday that a flood of about 50 tips and sightings of possibly suspicious behavior of people in five automobiles had only made the picture more complicated.
At a Town Hall meeting scheduled Friday night at the Glendale Civic Auditorium, fire officials were expected to report that about half of the leads had been exhausted without bringing the investigation closer to success, and that owners of two of the five cars had been eliminated from consideration.
An arson task force headed by Orr continuesd to search for occupants of a late 1970s blue Honda seen near the source of Wednesday’s fire just as it started.
Fire officials initially described that car as the focus of the investigation on Thursday.
Subsequent eyewitness accounts placed two other cars near the Honda, Orr said. Orr declined to describe those cars. In addition, two more cars aroused suspicions in nearby brush areas on Tuesday and Thursday.
A La Canada Flintridge resident reported seeing a blue car near the location where a fire broke out Tuesday on Angeles Crest Highway, causing damage to nine homes. On Thursday, a blue car parked at the end of a brushy cul-de-sac in Montrose drove off quickly as a resident came to investigate, Orr said.
However, neither of those cars were the same as the blue Honda seen at Wednesday’s fire, Orr said.
Witnesses provided the license plate numbers for three of the five cars whose owners are being sought. Orr declined to say which license numbers corresponded to which cars. He said the owners of two of those cars had been contacted by Friday afternoon and were cleared of any connection to the fire.
Arson is suspected because firefighters found an altered butane lighter in the area where the fire began on Verdugo Road.
On Thursday, Glendale Fire Department spokesman Chris Gray said investigators were seeking two men, age 20 to 25, who were seen in the blue Honda.
“The possibility is the blue car is a witness only,” Orr said. “We are urging them to come forward to eliminate them as suspects.”
Orr also said Friday that initial reports that the Glendale fire was one of three started with a butane lighter countywide turned out to be unfounded.
Orr leads a Glendale task force of three two-member teams. The Glendale investigation was proceeding independently from others, but Orr said that he expected to meet early next week to share information with investigators from Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.