Transient accused of lighting arson fires along Glendora hillside

GLENDORA >> A man was behind bars Wednesday in connection with three small hillside fires that burned less than an acre and near a church, according to police.
David Firestine, 33, was ultimately jailed on suspicion of arson, Glendora police Sgt. Chris Stabio said.
Lt. Matt Williams said a motorcycle officer spotted smoke at 9:13 a.m. Police also received several 9-1-1 calls reporting the fires.
One fire was on a hillside in the 7000 block of North Ben Lomond Avenue, Williams said. The second spot fire was north of the Church of the Open Door at 701 W. Sierra Madre Avenue. The third fire was close to other two.
An estimated 75 firefighters extinguished the fires at about 9:45 a.m.
Police searched the area well into the afternoon, ultimately finding and arresting Firestine in connection with the crime, police said. A motive was not available late Wednesday.
Police said the suspect had thrown rocks at a delivery truck, as well as thrown a cigarette and made obscene gestures to firefighters responding to the fires.
According to county booking records, Firestine was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Friday in West Covina Superior Court.
Anyone with information is asked to call Glendora Police at 626-914-8250.

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Azusa man denies charges in alleged South Whittier stalking, burglary, arson attempt

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SOUTH WHITTIER >> An Azusa man accused of violating a restraining order, breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s South Whittier home and trying to set it on fire pleaded not guilty to a string of charges in connection with the alleged crimes.
Joshua Diaz, 28, appeared in Downey Superior Court to answer to charges of burglary with a person present, attempted arson of inhabited structure, stalking and two counts of violating a restraining order, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.
Though also initially arrested on suspicion of trying to kidnap the former couple’s child, no kidnapping charge was filed Friday.
Diaz showed up the home of his former girlfriend 10700 block of Inez Street early Wednesday morning, Los Angeles County sheriff’s and district attorney’s officials said. The couple had been separated for about a year.
The woman fled from the home after Diaz grabbed a knife and threatened to kill himself, Ardalani said. Diaz was already gone when deputies arrived at the home.
But he returned about two hours later, doused the woman’s car and air-conditioning unit with gasoline, and tried, unsuccessfully, to light a fire, officials said. Diaz again fled, but was apprehended and arrested Wednesday afternoon.
Diaz is also accused of violating the restraining order on April 25, less than two weeks to the alleged break-in and arson, Ardalani said. “Diaz reportedly went to the victim’s home in violation of the restraining order, tapped on her window and told the victim he loved her,” she said.
Diaz was scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court May 15 for a hearing, Ardalani said. According to county booking records, he was being held in lieu of $250,000 bail.

PHOTO of Joshua Diaz: Courtesy

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Homeless man accused of series of arson fires in Pasadena

PASADENA >> Investigators arrested a homeless man early Sunday who they say is responsible for a series of up to a dozen fires in Pasadena trash cans, and one in the bed of a pickup truck, in recent weeks.
Michael Bell, 57, is accused of arson following his arrest about 4:30 a.m. at Central Park, 219 S Fair Oaks Ave., according to Pasadena Fire Department officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Police and fire investigators had noticed the pattern and were seeking a serial arsonist in connection with the string of fires, which primarily centered along Colorado Avenue, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said. Officials had a description of the alleged firebug based on surveillance footage they had obtained during their investigation.
“Early this morning, we received a call of a trash can fire,” Derderian said. Police found Bell in the area and detained him.
The suspect admitted to lighting the fire, as well as previous fires since April 9, Derderian said.
It was fortunate none of the fires ended up being worse, she said.
“In these extreme drought and dry conditions, even a trash can fire can spread quickly to adjacent structures and vegetation and cause much further damage and/or injuries,” she said.
Bell was being held in lieu of $76,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, records show.

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Man suspected in arson spree in Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights, Walnut

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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY >> A man is accused of lighting a series of seven fires inside the restrooms of open businesses in an unusually brazen arson spree in recent weeks in Rowland Heights, Hacienda Heights and Walnut, authorities said.
Deputies arrested David Lin, 42, Tuesday, Sgt. John Hanson of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said.
He had been sought in connection with a string of fires that began in December, the sergeant said. Three of the alleged fires occurred Tuesday alone.
Though the fires remained confined to the restrooms they were lit in, the suspect’s reckless and bold behavior was deeply concerning, arsonist profiler Detective Ed Nordskog of the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail said.
“For somebody to go into an open business during business hours and light a fire, it’s really rare, even for serial arsonists,” Nordskog said.
“What he does is so high-risk” the detective added. “He’s a rare breed. That makes him dangerous.”
No injuries were reported in the fires, Hanson said.
Detectives first became aware of an arsonist operating in the area when they were called to investigate a fire lit Jan. 29 in the bathroom of L & L Hawaiian Barbecue, 515 S. Gran Avenue in Walnut, Hanson said. Someone set fire to paper items such as toilet paper and toilet seat covers, inside the bathroom.
The following day, another similar fire erupted in a bathroom at Office Depot, 17450 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, Hanson said. The flames caused at least $2,000 in damage before fire sprinklers and firefighters extinguished it.
Detectives learned that another similar fire had taken place in December at the Rolling Wok restaurant, 18382 Colima Road in Rowland Heights, as well as at the Guppy House restaurant, 17188 Colima Road in Hacienda Heights, on Jan. 27, the sergeant said.
A break in the case Tuesday, as the suspect accelerated his arson spree, Hanson said. Three similar bathroom fires were reported Tuesday at McDonalds, 19775 Colima Road in Rowland Heights; Del Taco, 21060 Golden Springs Drive in Rowland Heights; and finally at Ten Ren’s Tea Time, 515 S. Grand Ave. in Rowland Heights.
But as the fires were igniting Tuesday, detectives were managed to identify a suspect through surveillance images, witness statement and booking photos from previous arrests. A bulletin was sent out to patrol deputies, who spotted Lin driving Tuesday afternoon.
Lin led deputies on a brief chase before pulling over and surrendering in the parking lot of a Rowland Heights supermarket, Hanson said. During the pursuit, he allegedly through methamphetamine from the car.
He was booked on suspicion of one count of arson for the tea house fire, felony evading of police and drug possession, Hanson said. Addition charges for the other six arson fires were expected to come later.
Lin, described as a former West Covina resident who has been living out of his car in recent months, was being held in lieu of $35,000 bail pending a scheduled arraignment Thursday in Pomona Superior Court, records show. But Lin’s bail is likely to increase as additional charges are added later.

BOOKING PHOTO of San Gabriel Valley arson spree suspect Davin Lin, 42.(Courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department)

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Man accused of series of arson fires in Whittier, Santa Fe Springs

SANTA FE SPRINGS >> A homeless man accused of setting at least four fires in Whittier and Santa Fe Springs over the weekend
pleaded not guilty Wednesday to four counts of arson, authorities said.
Police arrested Jesse Jesus Provencio, 27, Monday in connection with an arson fire reported the previous day in front of a Santa Fe Springs business, according to Whittier police officials and Los Angeles County booking records. He was described as a transient known to frequent the Santa Fe Springs area.
He’s accused with igniting four arson fires in all Sunday, scorching trees and brush but no structures, according to police and Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials.
Police and firefighters responded shortly before 11:15 a.m. Sunday to a report of a palm tree on fire in the 11900 block of Burke Street, Whittier police said in a written statement.
“Upon arrival, officers found a palm tree to the front of a local business fully engulfed in flames,” according to the police statement. Santa Fe Springs firefighters quickly doused the flames.
“The business was closed at the time and there were no injuries reported,” according to the statement. The fire caused an estimated $300 worth of damage.
The suspect was gone when officials arrived, police said. But detectives obtained surveillance camera footage which had captured the image of the alleged arsonist. The description was distributed to patrol officers.
Officers spotted a man matching the description near the scene of the Burke Street fire just before 11 a.m. Monday and arrested him, police said. The suspect, later identified as Provencio, was arrested on suspicion of arson.
Investigators soon linked Provencio to at least three additional fires that occurred the same day.
In addition to the fire in the 11900 block of Burke Avenue, prosecutors also charged Provencio with lighting another small arson fire in the 11800 block of Burke Street in Santa Fe Springs, and two in the 11800 block of Grande Vista Avenue in Whittier, according to a felony complaint filed against him.
Investigators continued working to try to connect Provencio to other recent suspected arson fired, including one Saturday in the 11800 block of Washington Boulevard, near the 605 Freeway, in which eight palm trees were scorches, Scoggins said.
The officer added that is was fortunate the suspect was captured before the series of fires resulted in more serious property damage or injury.
While a motive for the alleged arsons was unclear, Scoggins said there was no indication Provencio harbored an particular animosity toward the business in front of which he lit the fire.
According to county booking records, Provencio was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear in Norwalk Superior Court Feb. 4 for a preliminary hearing setting, district attorney’s office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani said.

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Transient accused of arson ‘for amusement’ in Pasadena

PASADENA >> Police arrested a transient early Sunday after he tried to light a strip mall on fire as a form of entertainment, officials said.
Jeremy Skinner, 42, was booked on suspicion of arson in connection with the small, 12:45 a.m. fire in the 2500 block of East Foothill Boulevard, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
“He gathered newspapers and trash and placed it adjacent to the strip mall building,” Luna said. “He proceeded to light the newspaper and trash on fire.”
With help from rainy weather, the building did not catch fire, and firefighters quickly extinguished the burning debris, Luna said.
After being identified as a suspect by police, “The suspect admitted starting the fire for amusement,” the lieutenant said.
According to Los Angeles County booking records, Skinner was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending his initial court appearance.

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Pasadena house fire investigated as possible arson

PASADENA >> Investigators suspect a small fire that broke out early Sunday inside a Pasadena home with six people inside may have been intentionally set, authorities said.
A resident of the home in the 1200 block of north Hill Avenue noticed smoke and called 9-1-1 just before 10 a.m., Pasadena police and fire officials said. Several of the adult residents of the home were asleep at the time.
Residents had extinguished the small fire themselves before firefighters arrived, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
A man in his 60s was taken to a hospital with possible smoke inhalation, police said. The other five residents of the home were unharmed.
Firefighters went into the home to check for any residual fire and determined the fire appeared suspicious, Derderian said. An arson investigator responded to the scene.
Investigators suspected the senior citizen who was taken to the hospital, who was described as “despondent,” may have set the fire, Pasadena police Lt. John Luna said.
The arson investigator expected to present his findings to prosecutors this week for consideration of possible charges, Derderian said.
She added that the fire caused about $15,000 worth of damage to the home and its contents.

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Suspect identified in Pasadena auto body shop arson

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PASADENA >> DNA evidence links a suspect to the arson of a Pasadena auto body shop last month that caused $375,000 worth of damage, officials announced Thursday.
Jesse Cole Nicholas, 30, was already in jail on unrelated cases when he was linked by DNA Wednesday to the Sept. 27 fire, according to Pasadena fire officials and arrest records.
The 7:20 a.m. blaze badly damaged a rear building used for detailing and prep work at Alliance Auto Body, 826 S. Arroyo Parkway, and destroyed two cars that were parked inside, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
“Believing that the fire was suspicious in nature, a fire investigator was summoned to the scene,” Pasadena fire officials said in a statement. “The investigator was able to determine that the fire was an intentional act and initiated an arson investigation.”
Surveillance footage from the business shows a man hopping a fence and breaking into cars at Alliance Auto Body hours before the fire ignited, officials said. He then stole a car and fled.
But the burglar returned several hours later, broke into several more vehicles and set fire to a car parked in the rear building, authorities said.
1017_NWS_PSN-L-ARSONSUSPECT2Pasadena fire investigators teamed with Pasadena police detectives and distributed a suspect flyer seeking information. “As a result of viewing the video, (the fire investigator) believed the suspect may possibly be transient and began canvasing the areas of the city frequented by the homeless.”
The fire investigator found a man matching the description at Pasadena’s Central Park on Sept. 29, according to the statement. Police helped arrest the suspect on an outstanding felony warrant as the investigation into the arson continued.
Nicholas received a 60-day jail sentence for the unrelated warrant on Oct. 1 at Los Angeles Superior Court, according to Los Angeles County records. He remained in custody Thursday at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic.
Records show he was also sentenced to 10 days for violating the terms of Post-Release Community Supervision stemming from a prior conviction.
The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Crime Lab notified Pasadena investigators Tuesday that DNA collected from one of the burglarized vehicles matched Nicholas, officials said.
A fire investigator interviewed Nicholas in jail Wednesday.
“Although the suspect denied knowledge and involvement in the break-in, auto theft and arson, he did provide the approximate location of the stolen vehicle, which was recovered,” according to the department statement.
Investigators planned to file their case with the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office next week.

PHOTOS courtesy of the Pasadena Fire Department

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South Pasadena serial arsonist sentenced

A man began serving a six-year prison sentenced this week after he was convicted of 12 counts of arson for torching cars and brush near his South Pasadena home.
The five-month arson spree of Javier Adolfo Viera, 36, began in November of 2012 and ended with his arrest in April of 2013, Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Frances Young of the DA’s Arson-Explosives Section said.
An Alhambra Superior Court jury convicted him Tuesday of one count of arson and was continuing to deliberate on the other 11 counts when Viera announced he would plead “no contest” to the remaining charges, Young said.
He was immediately sentenced to six years in state prison and ordered to register on a state database of arsonists.
The arson fires targeted six cars and six spots of brush in the general vicinity of the Arroyo Seco, Young said. He began lighting brush fires before graduating to vehicles.
Viera told investigators he lit the fires out of jealousy and frustration.
“He was not happy with the way his life turned out. He begrudged people their good fortunes,” the prosecutor said.
The cars scorched by the arsonist included a Mercedes-Benz, an Audi, a new Volkswagen, a Honda Hybrid, a Toyota Prius and a 1972 International Harvester Scout, Young said.
“They were all really nice cars,” she added.
The fires appeared to be growing increasingly more dangerous, with one lit only inches away from a 10-unit apartment building. The cars were torched while parked in residential neighborhoods.
Following his arrest after his final car fire in Los Angeles, Viera confessed to other arsons, South Pasadena police Sgt. Robert Bartl said at the time. He told police he never meant to hurt anyone and needed help.
The brush fires all remained small, largely due to vigilant neighbors who spotted and doused the fires with water bottles and garden hoses while they remained small, Young said.
The brush fires were lit with toilet paper and cotton balls, Bartl said.
When he switched to lighting car fires, he began using trash bags full of pine needles with he left beneath the cars’ gas tanks and set afire, police said.
Viera was initially charged with 18 counts of arson, though six of the counts were dismissed prior to trial, Young said.
Additionally, investigators were looking into him in connection with at least eight additional fires in South Pasadena, Pasadena and Los Angeles, though no charges have been filed in those cases.
Viera was ordered back to court for a restitution hearing Aug. 22, Young said. He was disputing the $109,000 in alleged damages the prosecutor said he owed the victim for the damage he caused.

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Arson suspected in Azusa car fire; may be linked to argument over illegal fireworks

AZUSA — Investigators suspect arson after a car was torched in a senior citizen’s driveway about 45 minutes after she told a group of people to stop lighting illegal fireworks near her home in an unincorporated county area near Azusa, authorities said.
Officials stopped short of calling the woman and two men who argued with the 66-year-old woman suspects in the apparent arson, however detectives were investigating their possible involvement and wanted to speak with them, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Lt. Andy Berg said.
“We find it an interesting coincidence,” the lieutenant said.
Deputies responded to reports of a car in flames just after 1 a.m. at the woman’s home in the 18600 block of Mauna Loa Avenue, sheriff’s officials said.
By the time firefighters extinguished the burning vehicle, a 1999 Chevrolet Camaro belonging to the woman’s son, it had been completely destroyed, Berg said. The car was valued at about $3,000.
A 1997 Saturn parked nearby was also damaged by the flames, officials said. The car sustained about $2,000 worth of heat damage to its hood and driver side.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Detail were looking into exactly how the fire ignited.
“Based on the fact the Camaro had not been driven for 2 days, and because of evidence at the scene, fire department officials suspect that the fire was intentionally started,” sheriff’s officials said in a written statement.
About 45 minutes prior to the fire, the woman had confronted a woman and two men lighting illegal “mortar”-style fireworks near her home.
“She asked them not to light any more fireworks, and told the group she would be calling the police,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “A woman in the group engaged in a brief argument with the resident.”
The resident did not recognize the woman or the men she was with, Berg said. The woman was described as white or Latina, about 40 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall and about 150 pounds. A description of the men was not available.
Dispatch records show the resident did not call deputies to report the fireworks or the argument, officials said.
But another resident about a block and a half away had called the sheriff’s department to report illegal fireworks at 12:53 a.m., after the argument but before the fire ignited.
Deputies arrived four minutes later, but did not locate any suspicious persons or illegal activity,” according to the sheriff’s department statement. “The fire was first reported at 1:12 a.m.”
Anyone with information was asked to contact the sheriff’s San Dimas Station.
Deputies at the sheriff’s San Dimas Station responded to a total of 96 fireworks-related calls between noon Friday and 2:10 a.m. Saturday, officials said.
Berg said the figure falls in line with previous Independence Days, with about 20 percent of the fireworks complaints coming from San Dimas, and 80 percent coming from the nearby unincorporated county areas also patrolled by the station.

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