Castro residents believe arsonist is targeting their area

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- A San Francisco neighborhood is on edge after a string of suspicious fires happened early Monday morning. The fires were all in the Castro District.

Residents feel their neighborhood is being targeted and they are taking action by looking out for one another and holding community meetings.

Howard Rosenzweig swept up charred debris outside his home at 19th and Castro streets in San Francisco. It was what was left of old furniture in the bed of his truck that he had planned to take to the dump. Instead, it went up in flames.

"My neighbor was banging on my door at 4 a.m. screaming, 'Howard, your truck is on fire!' I thought it would probably be the engine compartment and to come down and find it was the cargo. We were putting water on it," fire victim Howard Rosenzweig said.

It happened just before 4 a.m. and not too long after that, crews raced down the street to Hartford and 18th to extinguish fires set in garbage cans. One fire burned the outside of a house while a family slept inside. They did make it out.

Robert Buether lives next door to the home that burned. He said, "It's very unsettling actually. This is a very closely-knit and kind of a tight community, especially our street which is a little enclave in the Castro."

Investigators are calling the fires suspicious and are at looking at a possible link to other incidents. In November an arsonist set cars on fire in Noe Valley and last month more vehicles were torched in the Mission Dolores area.

"Whenever we have a series of fires in any district we always look at that possibility," Captain John Darmanin from the San Francisco Arson Task Force said.

Neighbors fear a serial arsonist is on the loose.

Rosenzweig said, "I'm scared. I'm worried. I'm afraid they are going to do it again. I'm positive they're going to do it again. I'm afraid they're listening right now and proud of themselves."

The Castro/Eureka Valley Neighborhood Association will discuss the issue at a meeting next week.
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