DOWNTOWN — It looks like there’s an arsonist on the loose.

The Santa Monica Arson Task Force is asking for the public’s help with the investigation of a series of car fires believed to have been intentionally set by a vandal, the latest two fires occurring Monday in the 1700 block of Franklin Street.

 All five fires were set blocks apart near the city’s eastern border. Police have no suspects in custody. The task force, comprised of Santa Monica fire fighters and police officers, is conducting a comprehensive investigation, said SMPD Sgt. Jay Trisler.

The fires have occurred on the following dates, vehicles and locations:

• June 30

1989 Toyota van, 1600 block of Stanford Street

• July 1

2001 Suzuki Sidekick, 1600 Stanford Street

1989 Volvo sedan, 1500 Yale Street

• July 6 

2005 Mercedes station wagon, 1700 Franklin Street                 

1990 Mercedes, 1700 Franklin Street 

Investigators said last week that they did not believe the fires were set by their owners, at least one of whom had no insurance to cover the damages. Some of the vehicles were damaged beyond repair, fire officials said.                                                  

The task force is called in when fire department officials believe the cause of the fire was of an incendiary nature, said Santa Monica Fire Marshall Jim Glew. Detectives follow up on the criminal element of the case, such as interviewing witnesses and apprehending suspects.

“The task force approach that we use to investigate fire incidents has been very successful,” Glew wrote in an e-mail. “Our clearance rate for arson cases has been 30 to 33 percent for several years. That is approximately double the national clearance rate of 12 to 17 percent.”

Those with information regarding the fires or any other arson are encouraged to contact the SMPD at (310) 458-8426. Those who wish to remain anonymous can contact WeTip at (800) 47-ARSON. Those who call may be eligible for a reward if the information given leads to an arrest or conviction.

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