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Arson rate jumps second year in row

Ryan Carter

Children are the city’s most prolific fire starters, according to

arson statistics and local officials, and their acts led to a 130%

increase in intentional fires last year.

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Firefighters responded to 23 arson cases in 2002, compared to 10

in 2001. Many of them were prompted by domestic conflicts in which

revenge resulted in intentionally set car fires, officials said. But

the main reason for the jump was an increase in fires set by

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children, police said.

“That’s where our double came in,” said Burbank Police Det.

Kevin Grandalski, who investigates fires with Fire Capt. Bob

Reinhardt. “The problem is the long-standing issue of kids playing

with matches and with fire.”

Shrubbery, Dumpsters, trash cans and a couch were among the

arsonists’ targets last year. Another fire apparently was sparked by

two children’s campfire, Grandalski said.

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In one incident last year, a 13-year-old Burbank boy was arrested

on suspicion of arson after allegedly lighting a fire in a restroom

near the gym of John Burroughs High School. The boy told police he

used the bathroom and threw burning paper towels on urinals to cover

the odor. The boy then threw the towels in a trash can, police said.

Another arson case occurred in a vacant house in the 1800 block

of North Lincoln Street. The two-story home was partially gutted and

suffered an estimated $100,000 damage. The fire had several starting

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points and a flammable liquid such as gasoline was used, Grandalski

said. The case is still being investigated.

Last year marked the second year in a row arson increased in

Burbank. In 2000, only three reported fires were illegally set, a

total that more than tripled in 2001.

Still, the numbers pale in comparison to the early 1990s. In 1991,

150 arsons were reported in the city. Officials said aggressive

prosecution and the conviction of serial arsonist and former Glendale

Fire Department arson investigator John Orr played major roles in the

decrease.

Arsons in neighboring communities also have increased. Glendale,

for example, went from 46 arson cases in 2001 to 66 in 2002.


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