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Radical Enviro Group Eyed In Fires

A fire that destroyed three homes under construction early Friday was the work of a radical environmentalist group, officials said. Investigators are also looking into a second fire at another construction site.

The California Highway Patrol said the first blaze was an Earth Liberation Front fire. The environmentalist group has previously claimed responsibility for dozens of acts of arson and vandalism, including an August fire at a San Diego apartment complex under construction that caused $50 million in damage.

The fire started at about 2 a.m. in the north-central part of the city, said Susan Smith, a fire department dispatcher. About two hours later, another home under construction caught fire about three miles away, officials said.

No injuries were reported and no damage estimates were immediately available.

A banner was hung on a building near the first fire, but police would not immediately say what was written on the banner. In the August ELF fire, banners were hung at the site reading, "If you build it, we will burn it."

Federal investigators are also looking into an arson and vandalism attack last month that targeted Hummers and SUVs in Los Angeles County, causing $1 million in damage.

Agents arrested a 25-year-old member of a co-op dedicated to peace and environmentalism in connection with those fires.

Joshua Thomas Connole, of Pomona, was arrested at home last Friday, said Cpl. Rudy Lopez, a West Covina police spokesman. He was booked for investigation of felony arson and vandalism and jailed $825,000 bail.

The fires on Aug. 22 gutted a parts warehouse and destroyed 20 Hummer H2 sport utility vehicles at a West Covina dealership. Another 20 Hummers and several Chevrolet Tahoe SUVs were badly damaged by fire and spray paint.

Three other dealerships and at least four privately owned vehicles in the area also were damaged during the vandalism spree.

Words such as "ELF," "Fat, Lazy Americans" and "I (heart) pollution" were painted on the SUVs.

In a phone interview from jail with the Los Angeles Times, Connole denied involvement in the vandalism.

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