[symple_googlemap title=”” location=”700 block of 11th Street, Manhattan Beach, CA” height=”300″ zoom=”13″]

A reward has grown to nearly $35,000 for information leading to whoever set an arson fire at the Manhattan Beach home of a black family, spurring concerns of a racially motivated attack, the city’s fire chief said Thursday.

The fire was set early on Feb. 4 at the front entrance of the home in the 700 block of 11th Street, according to the Manhattan Beach Fire Department.

“The fire from all indications appears to have been purposely set on the front porch …,” according to a Manhattan Beach Police Department statement. “The motivation for this crime has not been determined. However, all possible motives, including this being a hate crime, are being investigated. We have not ruled out any possibility.”

Family members were home at the time, and got out safely after being alerted by their dog and smoke detectors, officials said.

“The fire was extinguished and found to be confined to the front entrance, with significant smoke damage to the second and third floor. The cause of the fire is suspicious in nature,” according to the fire department.

Ron Clinton, who lives in the house with his wife and three children, said he fears his family may have been targeted because they are black, explaining that someone set the fire, using an accelerant, and they are the only black family in the area.

Clinton said he didn’t know of any disagreement or “beef” with anyone who might have resorted to arson, but his wife, a lawyer who was out of town when the fire was set, believes they were targeted in a hate crime.

“Until I have proof to the contrary, we were targeted because of the color of our skin,” Malissia Clinton told reporters.

“We are African-Americans. We’ve been African-Americans all our lives, living in this country and we are allowed to reach conclusions based on our experience. That is my entitlement.

“What I can say is that the community has rallied behind us and we think it’s isolated. We don’t think the community is racist.”

Hundreds of people turned out for a candlelight vigil in support of the family and someone solicited money through the fundraising site Fundly.com for a reward in the case.

As of Tuesday, the fund had grown to nearly $35,000, according to Manhattan Beach Fire Chief Robert Espinosa. Contributions to the fund can be made by visiting the website and searching for “fire bombed neighbor,” he said.

Meanwhile, local police and fire authorities continue to investigate the fire with assistance from the FBI, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and other agencies, Espinosa said.

“Fire investigators continue to analyze the physical evidence for information that can connect this crime to a suspect,” Espinosa said.

“With the assistance of the Manhattan Beach Police Department, FBI, ATF, Joint Regional Intelligence Center and Los Angeles County Sheriffs we are processing electronic information and comparing the evidence to similar crimes.”

Anyone with information about the case was urged to contact Manhattan Beach Fire Department Investigator Mike Murrey at (310) 345-0467. Anonymous tips can be provided by calling Crime Stoppers at (800) 222-TIPS.

City News Service

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