The growing number of suspicious car fires reported in cities across Contra Costa County are related, fire officials said Friday.
Two more blazes — the latest in a rash of car fires that has East Bay residents on edge — were reported early Friday morning — one in Walnut Creek and the other in Lafayette.
Flames were spotted at 2:06 a.m. at 1311 Juanita Drive in Walnut Creek and 11 minutes later at 1170 Crescenta Court in Lafayette. The two locations are less than three miles apart, according to Fire Marshal Robert Marshall.
Investigators confirmed Friday that the two overnight fires are related to five others that have been reported this week — two in Brentwood and one each in Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Martinez. Marshal says there is a connection between this week's fires and at least five others reported earlier in the year.
"There are a number of things that they're doing that connect them; for lack of a better term, kind of like a signature," Marshall said.
There is a common thread among all the fires, but Marshall declined to divulge that detail, saying he doesn't want to taint the ongoing investigation.
So far, the only difference has been that the cars damaged in Friday's fires were parked on streets, not in driveways.
A Lafayette man who lost his car Friday believes his vehicle was likely targeted by the person behind the recent string of blazes.
"I guess it's this guy that's been in the news or whoever this is," David Blumberg said. "Lighting cars on fire, that's this person's favorite pastime, apparently."
Early Thursday morning, two fires sparked in Brentwood.
The first was reported at 3:28 a.m. on the 1100 block of Hollowbrook Court in Brentwood. Along with charring a Chevrolet Avalanche, it damaged the residence's garage.
The homeowner, who only identified himself as John, said a neighbor happened to be awake early Thursday and was heading to work when he noticed their car was ablaze. So he rang the doorbell and woke up the family, giving a couple, their twin 6-year-old girls and their grandmother time to make it out safely.
John was thankful his neighbor rang the alarm.
"We could be in the hospital or worse," he said. "It's as simple as that. That's why I'm frustrated. I don't understand how anyone would choose to do that."
The second fire broke out just a mile away at 3:36 a.m. It scorched a car parked in the driveway of a home on the 1800 block of Highland Way.
Both fires are being investigated, but it's too early to say if these are acts of arson. They are suspicious, though, because of the time they broke out and their proximity to each other.
A neighbor's surveillance system captured a person walking by his house before one of the two Brentwood fires ignited. Fire investigators said the person captured on camera is a person of interest, not a suspect.
Thursday's scare follow a pair of fires — one in Walnut Creek and the other in Lafayette — that destroyed two cars early Wednesday morning. Another car burned in Martinez early Monday morning.
Car fires are suspicious by their very nature, according to the Contra Costa county Fire Protection District, but there are indications of arson in the Lafayette and Walnut Creek blazes.
People who live in these areas say the blazes are suspicious enough to make them take precautions.
"This is a very quiet neighborhood and to wake up in the middle of the night and see a car on fire and then find out that it could be arson is quite scary," John Cumbers said.
Tips usually help fire investigators get to the bottom of such cases, Marhall said. Anyone with information or surveillance footage pertaining to the fires is asked to contact the Arson tip line at 1-866-50-ARSON.
A third car fire on Thursday also broke out in Orinda, but that one was deemed accidental.
NBC Bay Area's Cheryl Hurd contributed to this report.