A 50-year-old man who authorities described as a transient was arrested for allegedly setting five small brush fires on Aug. 30 near the Hollywood (101) Freeway and Highland Avenue in the Cahuenga Pass.
The suspect, Bret Criddle, is facing arson charges and is being held on $75,000 bail. He was arrested on Aug. 30 after arson investigators from the Los Angeles Fire Department determined from witness statements the he was allegedly involved with setting the separate fires, said Capt. Patrick Leonard, of the LAFD’s Arson and Counterterrorism Section.
The first fire was reported at approximately 2 p.m. near 2301 N. Highland Ave. Leonard said firefighters responded quickly and extinguished the blaze. While on scene, they received another call about an additional fire nearby and responded, also quickly extinguishing the flames. LAFD personnel responded to the fires in the same general area over the next two hours, and all of the fires were quickly contained. Arson investigators conducted interviews with transients staying in the area, which led them to Criddle. Authorities are uncertain about the suspect’s motive for starting the fires.
“They were small fires, but every brush fire starts out small,” Leonard said. “The Hollywood Bowl area has extremely steep terrain and dry brush. There is significant potential for a fire to get out of hand if we weren’t able to extinguish it quickly.”
Firefighters remained in the area to ensure the flames were not rekindled. Leonard said people must remain vigilant regarding fire prevention and should immediately call 911 if they see someone starting a fire.
“It was fortunate we didn’t have Santa Ana winds or other weather conditions,” he added. “With the quick response, we were able to quickly put the fire out.”
The arrest came five days before the Los Angeles City Council considered a new ordinance that will allow police officers to forcibly remove people from encampments in areas covered by brush during peak fire danger periods. Current law only allows the city to post signage notifying people that they have to move out during “red flag” days, when the winds are 25 mph or more and the humidity is 15% or lower. Under the new regulations, which must go back before the City Council for a second reading, it would allow officers to notify people in person on red flag days and forcibly remove them if necessary. The law would apply to areas in the Hollywood Hills, as well as many other hillside areas citywide that are high risk of fires, said LAFD spokesman Brian Humphrey.
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