Web Feature | SoCal Rewind

Arsonist-in-Chief

While the smoke had yet to settle over New Year's weekend, authorities apprehended Harry Burkhart, the arsonist alleged to have set vehicles and homes ablaze in a string of fires that terrorized the residents of Hollywood and surrounding neighborhoods. Setting over 50 fires and causing roughly $3 million worth of damage is no small feat and prompted us to take a look back at one of the most notorious fire starters in U.S. history.

John Orr was convicted and sentenced to life in prison after reportedly setting thousands of fires in California during the 1980s and 1990s, including a blaze that claimed four lives in South Pasadena. Orr was also the former chief arson investigator for the City of Glendale.

The release of the HBO movie Point of Origin in 2002 sparked new interest in the man considered to be one of worst arsonists of the 20th century. Life & Times reporter Philip Bruce spoke to those most intimately involved with the case.

SoCal Rewind is an on-going series bringing you past reports on the issues of today. By drawing on KCET's extensive archive of Southern California news, culture and public affairs, we'll seek to inform current events by providing a little historical perspective, and maybe answer the question: Is there anything new under the SoCal sun?

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