4 suspicious overnight fires investigated as arson

April 4, 2010 7:58:30 PM PDT
Arson investigators are looking at four suspicious fires overnight at homes in San Jose. The fires broke out between 1 a.m. and 4:30 a.m.; two on Magnolia Tree Court, one on Jennings Drive, and the most serious on South 11th Street.

Not only are the fires being investigated as arson, police are looking into whether there is a connection between all the fires and whether they may be gang related.

The owners of the home on South 11th Street, which suffered the most damage, believe they were targeted by gang members. There were 11 people sleeping inside the home when the fire started around 2:15 a.m.

Janet Noriega shares the home with her grandson, his fiance and a number of grandchildren; the youngest is just 20 months old. Now all 11 of them are staying in a hotel provided by the Red Cross.

Noriega says she believes gang members consider it a gang home and that the same people who torched it believe some of her family members have gang ties. She says the problem has been going on for years.

"We've been having problems here now for about two years with vandalism," she said. "They've broken all the windows to my car."

"There were two suspects that were seen in the area, but no one has been captured, if you will. No one's been interrogated, so right now everything is up in the air," San Jose Fire Capt. Barry Stallarad.

"We have not ruled out the fact that this could possibly be gang related, but we still need to look a little further before we can confirm it," said San Jose Police Sgt. Ronnie Lopez.

The other homes affected are all within about 10 minutes of each other. The first two fires were reported shortly after 1 a.m. on Magnolia Tree Court; two houses there had minor damage. The last fire was reported on Jennings Drive around 4:30 a.m. Police say part of the reason damage was so minimal to the three other homes is because residents were able to extinguish the flames themselves.

Investigators believe the fire here on South 11th Street started in an SUV parked in the driveway. Residents say authorities confiscated a gas can nozzle nearby during the investigation. It was a CHP officer in the area who spotted two suspicious men wearing white that morning.

So far there have been no arrests.


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