Portable toilets set on fire

January 1, 2009 11:58:45 PM PST
An unusual string of crimes in San Francisco continued twice on Thursday. Someone is setting portable toilets on fire. The first fire occurred at Laguna and Greenwich in the Marina and the other occurred at Vermont and 17th Streets on Potrero Hill.

It's a scene that's far from new for San Francisco firefighters. A portable toilet was set on fire and destroyed Thursday morning and afternoon. One happened on Vermont Street, making this the 14th port-o-potty fire in the city.

"This house has been having some reconstruction for a long time, so it's not locked and so I guess it's a perfect candidate," said Jeff Neishi, a resident.

That's exactly what investigators think draws the arsonists. Every fire, including this one on Laguna Street, is set in front of a construction site. The fire was so intense it actually melted the entire structure and an explosion woke up this family.

"There was a boom and then you could hear crackling and then the sirens came. The flames came up pretty fast," said Daniel Soohoo, a witness.

Twelve hours later the Soohoos left their Marina District home and drove to their relatives' house, which happens to be on Vermont Street -- the scene of the afternoon fire.

"What a coincidence! It's a very strange thing going on in the city," said Robert Tatsumi, a resident.

It has been going on since November. The vandals first started breaking in and setting toilets on fire at Russian Hill construction sites. Last month, homeowners in other neighborhoods also noticed portable toilets destroyed on their streets. While nearby trees have been scorched by flames, no one has been hurt. But after having two fires in one day, some worry it's only a matter of time.

"The homes are so close in San Francisco that I was kind of concerned the house across the street was on fire, certainly I don't want my house to get on fire," said Sharon Soohoo, a resident.

Fire officials suggest locking up the toilets at night time. So far, no arrests have been made.