San Francisco arsonist caught on surveillance tape

June 13, 2012 7:58:23 PM PDT
A man was caught on camera Wednesday morning trying to start a fire that could have endangered dozens of downtown San Francisco residents. The video is now on YouTube in an effort to identify the man and have him arrested.

The arsonist started the fire in an alley jut off of 520 Taylor Street. What made the fire worrisome is that it was started near a youth hostel down the alley, a hotel on one side and an apartment building on the other.

Dressed all in blue, surveillance video shows the man walking down the alley between the Warwick Hotel and the 43-unit apartment building at about 12:20 a.m. He seems to be checking out various bundles of cardboard and furniture that was left out for collection the night before.

"He does a very detailed inspection of the chest of drawers to find that they were wooden and proceeds to light them on fire," said the property's manager, Jason Wisner, who put the video on YouTube.

Then, as the high-resolution video shows, the man lights the fire and casually walks away. Black smoke rises and wakes up Juan Reynosa, who then called building manager Geoff Polk. Polk is seen dousing the fire first with one bucket of water. Then as he lifts up a drawer, the flames spread. He leaves and returns seconds later with the water that finally puts it out. He says a firebug in the neighborhood has him worried.

"Oh sure, because this is an apartment building that has over 80 residents and the fire was directly adjacent to the building, so it's something you worry about a lot," according to Polk, who says he doesn't recognize the man from the building or the neighborhood. "However, certain other people have recognized him. So we're following up on that."

San Francisco police say they have not had any other arson fires like this in the area any time recently. This does concern the police arson squad who told ABC7 that they are investigating and would like anyone who can identify this man to give them a call.


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