San Jose community fights back against serial arsonist

Neighbors in San Jose are on high alert and keep an eye out for a serial arsonist that started 13 fires.
January 14, 2014 11:59:59 PM PST
The San Jose neighborhood targeted by a serial arsonist is fighting back and their hard work appears to be paying off. The area has gone two nights without another fire.

The San Jose Fire Department says the arsonist set at least 13 fires over a six day period, starting last Wednesday.

SJFD is circulating tips on fliers asking residents to keep porch lights on, clear debris from side yards and have a working smoke detector.

Some in the neighborhood are taking it step further as they don't want to see this happen again. David Combs has a very large and, he says, vigilant dog. His pet gives him some peace of mind but still knows an arsonist is on the loose.

"Everybody's on edge trying to find out who that person is, but no one knows," said Combs.

They want the suspect caught before he strikes again and they're trying to prevent that next hit. Meanwhile, Combs has taken other steps.

"I put a security camera outside my house a couple of days ago. And my computer running so, we're all doing our part," he said.

It's a tight knit community. About 30 volunteers have signed up to keep an eye out overnight and everyone is on alert around the clock.

Jani Wild says it's the randomness of the fires that's so scary. She asked, "How do you know if you've protected your house enough or what to watch out for?"

While no one has been physically hurt in any of the fires, there is still pain being inflicted. Parents are worried about their children.

"The fear and the mental anguish from it; and a kid, that marks them for life," said Wild.

San Jose family needs help after home was torched

A Bay Area family is asking for help after their home was torched. Their fire is just one of 13 in one neighborhood over a six-day period. There have been no new fires since Sunday.

At St. John and 17th streets in Downtown San Jose the arsonist torched a house on Saturday. Now, the owners of the home who've lived there for decades are struggling to get by. Sharon and Vincent LaViniya haven't had insurance on their home for years. They were sleeping inside when the fire started on the back porch. It quickly spread to the front of the house and the roof.

The LaViniyas have a message for the arsonist.

"He's very sick and really, what he needs to do is that he needs to turn himself into the police and try to get some help because what he's doing he's going to end up killing somebody," said Sharon LaVigna.

The LaViniyas are currently living with their son a few blocks away. They say they let their insurance lapse because of financial reasons. Now they're asking for the public's help. The couple's son has set up two accounts for donations.

Police released a sketch of the man police are looking for. He's described as a thin white or Hispanic man in his 20s or 30s, 6'-6'2" tall, wearing baggy clothes.

Authorities are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

La Vinga Family Fire Recovery Fund


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