Someone is torching trees in Los Angeles, prompting fear and an investigation

Three cypress trees were burned by an unknown person in Silver Lake on March 20.
Three cypress trees were burned by an unknown person in Silver Lake on March 20. Fire authorities said 26 trees have burned since March 1.
(Via Valli Herman )

The Los Angeles Fire Department is investigation the torching of 26 trees throughout Northeast Los Angeles that began on March 1.

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The deliberate burning and singeing of 26 cypress and palm trees throughout Northeast Los Angeles has triggered alarm among locals and an investigation by authorities.

The Los Angeles Fire Department confirmed Thursday afternoon that it and other agencies, including the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, are investigating a rash of small blazes since March 1.

“We are aware of various suspicious vegetation fires around the Mount Washington, Glassell Park and [Silver Lake] communities,” said Los Angeles Fire Department Capt. Erik Scott, in an emailed statement. “LAFD arson investigators and LAPD detectives are working collaboratively to conduct a thorough investigation and to bring to justice any potential criminal behavior.”

Scott said investigators were following tips and leads provided by the public. He said there had been no significant property damage and no injuries.

No information was available on the number of suspects and potential motives, he said, adding that the investigation was ongoing.

Many of the blazes were reported on social media apps, including Nextdoor.

Home surveillance videos posted on Nextdoor showed a person setting fire to a palm tree in Silver Lake on March 7 just a little past 11 p.m.

Other posts on the site include photos and descriptions of the burning of palm trees, palm fronds and cypress trees.

Perhaps the most brazen act was the burning of a palm tree two properties over from a Los Angeles Fire station in Silver Lake.

Production designer Marcelle Gravel said she first became aware of the blazes 10 days ago when a trio of cypress trees near her home were set on fire. Since then, two more trees on her street have been burned.

A palm tree was singed near the intersection of Rowena Avenue and Rokeby Street in Silver Lake.
(Via Valli Herman )

“I just want to feel safe in my neighborhood,” Gravel said. “It’s an amazing community, but it’s really sad when you know people are going around and destroying trees and life without a reason.”

Gravel, who has lived in Silver Lake for 27 years, said she paid $800 to remove one of her four cypress trees on Wednesday afternoon for fear that it would be set ablaze and burn her home. The 40-foot-high specimen had been on the property for at least five decades, she said.

“I took out the tree that was touching my house,” she said. “I love these trees and they’re big and beautiful, but it was a decision I had to make. I can’t lose my home.”

Gravel was equally concerned that a 50-foot redwood, planted by her home’s original owner in 1928, was also at risk.

“This is real freakish,” she said. “Who would do this?”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.


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