Man is arrested in fire at Griffith Park
A 43-year-old Glendale man on probation for arson was arrested on suspicion of starting a fire in Griffith Park on Saturday, the eighth such blaze in a month at one of the nation’s largest urban parks, officials said.
“We have probable cause to believe he started today’s fire and also may have started the other fires as well that have occurred over the last month here,” Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said at a news conference at the park Saturday afternoon.
Gary Allen Lintz was spotted by hikers leaving an area near Griffith Park Drive where a slow-moving brush fire broke out shortly after 2 p.m. Saturday, said John Miller, battalion chief for the arson and counter-terrorism unit of the Los Angeles Fire Department.
Undercover arson investigators then observed Lintz riding in a group of bicyclists and stopped him for questioning, Miller said. Lintz stood out because he was not dressed in racing apparel.
“He didn’t fit in with the other bicyclers,” Miller said.
Miller said that after questioning Lintz, investigators came to believe he had a connection to all eight recent fires. Miller noted, however, that Lintz was arrested only in connection with the Saturday fire.
The fire was reported near Griffith Park and Mt. Hollywood drives. Within an hour, 75 firefighters had the three-acre blaze 60% contained, and soon after it was declared “knocked down” by a fire official.
Almost immediately, fire officials called the blaze suspicious.
“This would not have been an accidental cause,” said Los Angeles city Fire Battalion Chief Ray Gomez.
Authorities described Lintz as a transient who lives in Glendale. In February 2007, Lintz was convicted of arson resulting in a structure or forest land fire, according to court records and officials who spoke at Saturday’s news conference.
In addition, court records indicate Lintz had at least two convictions on charges of drinking in public, in 2006 and 2007, and a 1996 conviction for trespassing on railroad property.
Villaraigosa thanked the public and law enforcement officials for apprehending Lintz, who is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail.
Lintz was arrested at 3 p.m. and booked into a Los Angeles jail shortly after 5 p.m., according to jail records.
Lintz’s arrest came the same day that stepped-up patrols began in the park, less than a week after fire officials said they suspected a single person was responsible for five fires in two hours Aug. 16 and may have had a hand in two previous suspicious fires.
In part because all five blazes began near roadsides, fire officials said earlier this week that they suspected that someone either on foot or bicycle was responsible.
Los Angeles Councilman Tom LaBonge called the arrest “a great relief.”
“This has been a pattern, either Saturday, Sunday and Monday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. a fire would start at Griffith Park in that region of the park, the northwest region west of the zoo near Travel Town,” LaBonge said.
LaBonge said the additional resources deployed in the 4,218-acre park -- including park rangers, brush fire units and arson investigators -- made it possible to act quickly, particularly on a day when temperatures near 100 degrees were expected.
“We had good karma today,” he said.
The outbreak of fires over the last month was the most in a short period in the recent history of the park, Senior Arson Investigator David Liske, a 26-year veteran, told The Times last week.
* A fire July 27 burned 25 acres and led to the evacuation of thousands of Los Angeles Zoo visitors. The fast-moving fire, which threatened a breeding center for endangered condors, took firefighters three hours to contain.
* On Aug. 4 a three-acre blaze burned in the northeast part of the park near Mineral Wells Trail. Firefighters brought the fire under control in 1 1/2 hours.
* Five fires broke out Aug. 16 near Travel Town, forcing the evacuation of the attraction. The fires burned about 50 acres and took 300 firefighters several hours to control.
Last year, Griffith Park suffered its worst fire in three decades. That fire burned one-quarter of the park, about 1,200 acres, destroying popular hiking areas.
At the time, a man in his 20s who lived out of state was questioned and eventually cited on suspicion of smoking in a restricted area. No criminal charges have been filed in the case, which remains under investigation.
Times staff writer Ruben Vives contributed to this report.