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Eyewitness News
Southern California's Leader

Another Suspicious Fire at a House of Worship

ENCINO — A non-injury fire broke out Wednesday at a synagogue on Ventura boulevard -- the fourth blaze at a house of worship in Encino in 11 days.

video Synagogue the Target of Another Firebombing

The 6:40 a.m. fire at Valley Beth Shalom, 15739 Ventura Blvd., was quickly extinguished by the facility's sprinkler system, authorities said.

Firefighters were able to put out a suspicious fire at Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue quickly, no one was injured. It was the fourth fire at a house of worship in Encino in 11 days.
The cause of this morning's fire was under investigation, said Jim Wells of the Los Angeles City Fire Department. The previous three fires have been labeled suspicious.

Investigators from the House of Worship Task Force were sent to the scene of the latest blaze, a fire official said.

About 10 Monday night, a fire damaged a synagogue at 18018 Ventura Blvd. that serves Iranian immigrants. The roof of the storefront synagogue was damaged, but firefighters were able to put out the blaze in a few minutes, said fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey.

"This is something that we can't tolerate here in Los Angeles, and we're going to do everything in our power to find those responsible, to prevent any further acts from taking place," Hahn said at the Valley Beth Shalom synagogue, the latest target.
Firefighters also responded to a blaze at the Baha'i Community Center, 4830 Ganesta Ave., at 11:16 a.m. Monday, Humphrey said. A paramedic, who was first on the scene, put the flames out with a garden hose, he said. The fire caused more than $10,000 damage to the structure's entrance, Humphrey said.

Randolph Dobbs, the administrator at the Baha'i Community Center, said federal authorities would be notified of a possible hate crime because the fire was at a religious property. The Baha'i faith as its world headquarters in Haifa, Israel.

On April 26, a fire broke out at the First Presbyterian Church of Encino at 4963 Balboa Blvd., but firefighters confined the blaze to an office area and had it out 26 minutes after being dispatched, Humphrey said. That fire caused $15,000 worth of damage to the building and $5,000 to its contents.

Humphrey said the fires that broke out Monday and on April 26 are "suspicious and under investigation." No injuries resulted.

"The notion they could be related is under investigation," Humphrey said. "Nothing definitely relates these fires, but the geographical and spiritual relationship is not lost on investigators."

Anyone with more information about the fires was asked to call arson investigators at (213) 485-6175.

Last Updated: May 7, 2003

©Copyright 2003, KABC-TV (Los Angles, CA, USA)

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