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Arson Attacks Drive Woman, 87, From Home

TIMES STAFF WRITER

An early Monday fire was the second arson attack in less than a week and all but destroyed the home of an 87-year-old woman who moved out after the first blaze, according to neighbors.

Even before the fires, a series of other vandalism incidents caused Sharon Griffin--who has lived in that house for as long anyone can remember--to suffer chest pains, according to Jody Kulczycki, Griffin’s next-door neighbor.

Kulczycki and other neighbors struggled Monday to understand why anyone would target Griffin--described as an active woman who takes yoga classes and still does many of her own home repairs.

“At first we thought it was a case of mistaken identity,” said Kulczycki, who had feared the flames would also engulf her house. “There is no point in continuing to bomb [Griffin’s] house.”

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Neighbors said they were told by Los Angeles Fire Department personnel that the fires were started by incendiary devices thrown or placed at the house.

Investigators on Monday would only say that the fires were considered arson and were under “active investigation.”

“Indeed, it’s classified as arson and it’s receiving our utmost attention,” said Brian Humphrey, a spokesman for the department.

All the acts of vandalism had been recorded by Griffin in a log she started after the first incident, said Kulczycki, who was given a copy of the log by Griffin.

The first attack occurred sometime during the night of March 10, according to the log. Griffin indicated that the following morning she found paint on her car. She washed it off, Kulczycki said.

Griffin spent the night of March 13 away from home, but when she returned, according to the log, she found a flare on the front porch and several large “metal balls” in her bedroom.

Then, at about 11:45 p.m. on March 21, she heard a car speed off just as a flare was flung through her living room window, according to the log. No fire started that time.

The first fire occurred at about 11:15 p.m. March 22 when another object was hurled at the house, according to the log.

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The firefighters “found glass and a rag soaked with gas,” according to Kulczycki. She said the objects were shown to her by the firemen. “It smelled like gasoline.”

Griffin checked into a hotel, according to neighbors.

Monday’s blaze started after an object was thrown at the house just after midnight, said Tim Cushing--Griffin’s other next-door neighbor. Cushing said precautionary measures after the first fire paid off.

After the first blaze, Cushing and Kulczycki bought seven fire detectors and installed them on the outside of Griffin’s house.

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Cushing heard the alarms Monday and ran outside and attempted to extinguish flames on the front porch.

“The glow was so bright,” said a neighbor who refused to be identified. “It was really intense.”

After firefighters put out the flames, Cushing said, he was shown what the fire officials said was a flammable container thrown at the house.

“He was showing me this melted plastic slab,” Cushing said. “It had a smell of gas to it.”

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Meanwhile, Cushing--who has two small children--and other neighbors worried about their own safety.

“This block is full of little ones,” Kulczycki said. “We are huddled in one room. My daughter won’t go back in her room.”


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