For the past week, Los Angeles fire officials have been trying to find out who has been setting fires across the city. For four days, 53 fires sprang up and damaged millions of dollars worth of property in West Los Angeles, the San Fernando Valley, and Hollywood.

Early Monday morning, police arrested 24-year-old German citizen Harry Burkhart on suspicion of arson after spotting him driving a van that matched the description of the one connected with the fires.

The fires kept many on edge as no one knew where the arsonist would strike next. Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky told reporters that he hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since the fires began.

“Our long, four-day nightmare is over,” he said.  “This has been literally a nightmare for people who live on the west side of L.A., the San Fernando Valley and West Hollywood. I live in that community and I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since last week. I’m looking forward to that tonight.”

According to the L.A. Weekly, Burkhart exclaimed, “I hate America,” when he was taken into custody. Apparently, the 24-year-old has been battling the government due to an immigration dispute concerning his mother.

Police and federal officials teamed up to catch the arsonist, and according to  Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck federal law enforcement agents, who had been aware of the immigration battle, recognized the Burkhart from surveillance videotape taken near some of the fires.

Burkhart is being held in jail while he awaits arraignment on Wednesday.


*Photo courtesy of the Associated Press

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