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Newspaper Office Hit by Arson Fire : Crime: The blaze at the weekly Little Saigon News is put out quickly. Officials are investigating whether it may be related to one nearby six days before.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the second arson attack in six days in a predominantly Vietnamese commercial area, the office of a Little Saigon newspaper erupted in gasoline-fueled flames early Monday.

The blaze at Little Saigon News was quickly noticed by Westminster Firefighter Ken Kungle, who was arriving almost two hours early for work at the fire station at 15058 Moran St., directly across the street at from the newspaper.

Firefighters had everything under control 10 minutes after Kungle saw the flames at 5:20 a.m., authorities said. The fire was extinguished before extensive damage could be done, and no one was injured, they said.

Although the paper sustained an estimated $15,000 in damage, the owner of the Vietnamese-language weekly said it could have been much worse.

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Brigitte Le, 41, who owns and edits the 8-year-old publication, said gasoline had been poured through the building’s back door.

“I am very lucky that the Fire Department is across the street,” said Le, a Fountain Valley resident who came to the United States in 1977. “They poured a lot of gasoline into the back door of our office.”

Capt. Craig Campbell of the Westminster Fire Department agreed.

“This was definitely intentionally set,” Campbell said. “If this fireman had not arrived when he did, the building probably would have burned to the ground.”

Last Wednesday, a fire injured three firefighters and caused $500,000 damage to a karate studio owned by Vietnamese at 9265 Bishop Place, just a few hundred yards away from Monday’s blaze. Campbell said his department will look into the possibility that the two fires could be related, and also any possible connection with recent political unrest in the city.

“We are checking to see if they are related,” Campbell said. “We’re not saying they are, but anytime you have two fires that close together, we will investigate.”

Political fervor has intensified in Little Saigon recently, with street protests primarily focused on people thought to favor better relations with the Communist regime in power in Vietnam. Last weekend, 300 demonstrators marched along Bolsa Avenue for two days to protest the actions of a local doctor who was host to Vietnamese Communist leaders at his Orange County home.

Le would not speculate on why her business had been targeted, other than to say such problems go with the territory.

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“It’s too early to say why this happened,” Le said. “I think we should let the police do their work. When you publish a newspaper in the Vietnamese community, sometimes you cannot separate the political issues out of your work. . . . Sometimes you have to take sides.”

Le said her paper had supported the street demonstrators’ demands that the United States keep its trade embargo against Vietnam. She said she will continue to do so, even though the fire might be connected with that issue.

“This will not stop us. We will be out on time this week,” she said. Her newspaper comes out on Fridays and circulates to 10,000 people in Orange County and 30,000 readers nationwide, she said.

Frank Fry Jr., a city councilman for more than 22 years, said that he does not like the idea of arson in the city but that he does not believe the community should be overly alarmed.

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“There is a big split down there in Little Saigon over whether (the United States) should recognize Communist Vietnam or not. But I wouldn’t be too concerned about it,” Fry said. “If it had been the doctor’s building, that would be different.”


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