Fatal Pasadena boarding house fire ruled arson; suspect arrested on suspicion of murder

PASADENA — Authorities arrested a man early Friday in connection with an explosive fire that killed two people and critically injured a third at a boarding house after determining the fire had been intentionally set, officials said.
Police jailed Garth Allan Robbins, a 49-year-old resident of the home scorched by the fire, just after 5:40 a.m. Friday in connection with the explosive blaze early Thursday in the 1300 block of El Sereno Avenue that left two men dead and another badly burned, Pasadena police officials said in a written statement
The names of the two dead men were not released Friday pending confirmation that their families had been notified, coroner’s officials said. They were described as a black man in his 50s and a white man in his 70s.
The injured survivor, identified by police as 65-year-old Perry Simons, who authorities said Friday was expected to survive.
All three victims were residents of the boarding house, which is not licensed through the state or city, officials said.
As police and fire investigators poured of the remnants of the scorched two-story home, “The investigation showed that it was an intentionally set fire and led to the arrest of this one individual,” Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
Once officials determined the fire had been intentionally set in Robbins’ room, “The focus of the investigation shifted from suspicious fire to an act of arson/murder,” according the the police statement.
Early Friday morning, “Officers saw Mr. Robbins at a local restaurant and arrested him without incident,” the statement said.
Investigators declined to discuss how the fire was lit, or what caused a large explosion at the home, as they continued collecting evidence and building their case, Derderian said.
In addition to those killed and hurt in the fire, 16 other men who lived at the home were displaced, Derderian said.
The fire caused an estimated $750,000 worth of damage to the home and its contents, she added.
Officials planned to transfer the displaced residents from a temporary shelter at the Jackie Robinson Center on Fair Oaks Avenue to motels Friday evening, Derderian said.
According to county booking records, Robbins was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance.

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