Multiple fires near Downtown San Jose create arson concerns for neighbors

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- The smell of smoke and the sight of scorched debris have become routine for residents living in and around Downtown San Jose.

ABC7 News was at Olinder Park on Wednesday afternoon, as the San Jose Fire Department (SJFD) was cleaning up the scene of one small grass fire.

SJFD confirmed crews first responded to the area around 2:45 p.m., and fought eight small grass fires.

Hours later, after 8:15 p.m., fire crews were back in the exact area to fight yet another fire.

"Definitely concerning because, within the last few weeks, we've seen at least five just in our little neighborhood," Agnes Spence told ABC7 News.

Spence lives in the area and said the park is usually busy with visitors throughout the day. This means any fire has the potential to harm many.

"There's little kids and just people walking around. Especially with their pets," she explained. "You just don't want anything to happen to our houses and our neighborhood."

She described often hearing "choppers, alarms and sirens," especially in the last few weeks.

SJFD said a suspect was detained for "possibly" starting Wednesday's afternoon fires on purpose. No additional information has been provided.

The development brings relief to Roosevelt Park resident Jeff Levine, who previously suffered at the hands of a serial arsonist.

Levine is also the vice president of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. He shared video with ABC7 News, showing one man's effort to start multiple fires on Levine's front porch back then.

"We were one of the victims of the San Jose arsonist in January 2014," Levine said. "Along with about 15 other people, he did about $5-million worth of damage."

Reacting to recent clusters of fires, he said, "Everybody's on heightened alert, hoping that there's not another serial arsonist on the loose."

CrimeMapping.com shows dozens of areas and locations of suspected arson around Downtown San Jose from late-February to Wednesday.

"You can't cry wolf every time there's a fire and say every fire's arson, but when you have a series of them over and over, all these clusters of fires, it begins to raise your suspicions that they aren't just accidental," Levine said. "They aren't just random."

He added, "We don't know is this just coincidence? Is it fireworks perhaps? Is it homeless encampments? Is it an arsonist? What the cause is- but it's awfully suspicious where you have repeated clusters of fires in the same areas."

ABC7 News has reached out to SJFD for those answers, but have not heard back. SJPD and the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office redirected us to the Fire Department.

Neighbors said they just want reassurance that something is being done to stop the destruction.
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