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Police seek person of interest in series of suspicious fires

Four separate blazes occur within a 1-mile span near downtown

The Palo Alto Police Department is asking the community to help identify a person of interest who may be responsible for four fires that occurred in the downtown area early Friday morning.

The police's 24-hour dispatch center received the first report of a fire at 2 a.m. Officers and Palo Alto Fire Department personnel who responded found an unoccupied truck fully engulfed in flames in the Caltrain parking lot in the 600 block Urban Lane. The vehicle sustained significant damage but no injuries were involved.

At 4:25 a.m., the dispatch center received another report of a fire in the 100 block Palo Alto Avenue. The response team located the fire inside a dumpster, police said.

A third report at 5:30 a.m. led officers and personnel to a small pile of smoldering ash inside a dumpster area at the parking garage in the 500 block High Street, according to police.

While personnel responded to the fire in the parking garage, the dispatch center received a report of a small brush fire, which the response team located along the bicycle path south of the Homer Avenue tunnel, police said.

All four fires were extinguished with no injuries, police said. (See a map displaying where the fires happened here.)

Detectives and arson investigators determined the fires were suspicious, police said.

A surveillance camera from a nearby property showed a man walking in the area minutes before the dumpster fire on Palo Alto Avenue began; he carried a backpack and wore a beanie-type cap, light-colored long sleeve shirt and dark-colored pants. Police said it's unknown if he is related to the fire, but are asking for the public's help in identifying him.

Anyone with information about the fires can call the police's 24-hour dispatch center at 650-329-2413. Anonymous tips can be emailed to paloalto@tipnow.org, sent via text message or voicemail to 650-383-8984 or submitted through the department's free mobile app, downloadable at bit.ly/PAPD-AppStore or bit.ly/PAPD-GooglePlay.

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