$170K reward offered in probe of downtown Los Angeles fire

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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- A $170,000 reward was offered Wednesday for information that leads to the person responsible for igniting a huge inferno that destroyed an unfinished apartment building and extensively damaged adjacent office towers in downtown Los Angeles.

The reward, announced by officials at a news conference outside City Hall, will include $75,000 each from the city and the building developer, and $20,000 from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The City Council must formally approve its contribution at Friday's meeting.

Carlos A. Canino, special agent in charge of the ATF Los Angeles field division, said it's the largest reward he's seen in 25 years with the bureau.

"I think it's unprecedented and the reason it's unprecedented is because of the magnitude of this fire," he said.

The Dec. 8 fire gutted the 1.3 million-square-foot Da Vinci complex, which was in the wood-framing stage when it went up like a massive bonfire visible for miles across the city.

The heat was so intense that it cracked or shattered hundreds of windows in neighboring office buildings, igniting small fires in one of them, and damaged an adjacent freeway where traffic was brought to a halt. Despite the intensity no one was hurt.

Damage was estimated at $20 million to $30 million.

Fire Chief Ralph Terrazas called it one of the largest structure fires his department has battled in a generation, and required the commitment of more than a third of the city's on-duty personnel.

A multi-agency investigation subsequently determined the fire was an act of arson. Investigators also released video of two people who were near the scene the morning of fire, calling them persons of interest rather than suspects.

Cleanup of the burned construction site and repair of the adjacent damaged buildings continues.

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