Heights residents on edge over arson

November 17, 2009 2:13:34 PM PST
Residents who live in a Heights neighborhood say they're being terrorized, afraid to sleep at night because of a suspected arsonist who keeps coming back for more. At least five suspicious fires have happened this month alone in the same spot on Ashland and West 10th Street. One fire is enough, but five in the same spot is, in the words of one neighbor, "getting ridiculous" and perhaps dangerous.

On August 11 was the first fire at what had been a small duplex. The building was gutted, but it was still an invitation for someone to set even that on fire a few nights later. Then two more fires were set at an ever-increasing yard full of lumber and furniture.

Early Friday, it happened again.

"We saw a different kind of light from out of this window, like a bright yellow light," said neighbor Antonio Quintanilla.

For the fifth time, Quintanilla called 911. His home next door already has a scorched wall. Friday's fire happened at 4am and he says there was something different.

"I heard a little explosion, like a 'boom' in a bottle or something," said Quintanilla.

The fire may have been contained to the damaged debris, but it has destroyed any sense of security among neighbors. The last remaining tenant in an adjoining garage apartment moved out Friday. He hadn't slept here since the first couple of fires and he said he had a feeling it would happen again.

An investigator with the fire department arson division says there are no suspects for now, which doesn't exactly calm nerves around here.

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