Sun, Apr 01, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Teens arrested for starting fire near Hollywood sign


Flames allegedly ignited by two teens sent smoke seeping into the Warner Bros studios and towering high in the sky behind the famous Hollywood sign before losing intensity.

The 160-hectare blaze started on Friday near a corporate housing complex east of Universal City, south of the Warner Bros studios complex in Burbank. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said two teens from Illinois told authorities they caused the fire and were in custody, but he had no other details.

"They've admitted that they started this fire," the mayor said at a news conference. He said they were "old enough to know what they were doing was wrong."

The 16 and 17-year-old boys, who were visiting Los Angeles with their parents, had been staying at the housing complex, the mayor said.

Both boys were later booked for investigation of reckless setting of a fire, said Ron Myers, a fire department spokesman.

They were released to their parents, and the case will be sent to county prosecutors Monday for possible charges, Myers said.

For several hours smoke roiled into the sky behind the famous Hollywood sign that stands on the south face of the hills, but the flames made no move down the south face and by late afternoon the landmark appeared to be well out of any danger.

"If it burns, we would be losing an icon," said Russ Mitchell, a Los Angeles resident.

Some 200 firefighters with five helicopters fought the flames.

Scott Rowe, vice president of corporate communications for Warner Bros Entertainment, said the company was monitoring the situation.

"The studio is fairly filled with smoke at the moment," he said. "It's at our back door. I think a couple of our entrances have been closed at this point and we're operating normally but that could change any minute."

The region had an extremely dry winter with little rainfall, leaving much of the area parched. Humidity also was low, about 10 percent, which makes vegetation burn more easily.

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