Toilet arsonist not responsible for past potty fires

October 4, 2010 5:45:38 PM PDT
A 27-year-old homeless man arrested on suspicion of lighting up several portable toilets in San Francisco over the weekend is not believed to be the culprit in a series of similar arsons in recent years, police and fire officials said today.

Michael Warner was arrested Saturday night after a witness saw the flames at a construction site near the UCSF Mission Bay campus at about 7 p.m., and spotted Warner climbing over a nearby fence, according to police.

Warner was detained a short time later and booked on 11 counts of arson and one count of possessing a flammable substance, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said.

According to police, seven toilets and three hand-washing stations at the site in the 400 block of Mission Bay Boulevard South were destroyed. An eighth toilet was damaged.

Esparza and fire department spokeswoman Lt. Mindy Talmadge said today that Warner is not believed responsible for a string of portable toilet arsons throughout the city between late 2008 and last year.

"Based on the circumstances of the incident, it does not appear to be related to the previous arsons," Talmadge said.

Warner has no fixed address and told police he was not from San Francisco, according to Esparza.

In the fall and winter of 2008-09, 27 portable toilets were burned throughout the city; in December 2009, several more went up in flames.

No injuries were reported in any of the fires, but the fire department warned that the blazes were more than just a nuisance because they had the potential to spread to nearby trees and homes. The lavatories also cost about $2,500 apiece.


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