Suspected arsonist was resident of Tustin apartment complex
A man suspected of starting the Tustin apartment complex fire that displaced dozens of people on Wednesday morning was a resident of the burned building and was arrested after voluntarily going to authorities, police said.
Sleeping residents of the Chatham Village Apartments were awakened by police pounding on their doors and saying they had to evacuate. It was shortly after 3 a.m. and the building, at 15751 Williams St., was ablaze.
Tustin Structure Fire: 3:01 am. 3 alarm fire at 15751 Williams. Two story apartment building. Heavy fire with roof collapse at 3:25. All firefighters accounted for. Defensive fire attack. 80 firefighters onscene. pic.twitter.com/N48sywgMya
— OCFA PIO (@OCFA_PIO) February 12, 2020
It took about 120 firefighters about five hours to knock down the fire that caused the roof to collapse. Two people were treated for smoke inhalation; one of them was hospitalized. At least 62 people were displaced and 38 units were damaged or destroyed.
Firefighters combed through the burned building searching for answers into the evening.
At about 6:45 p.m. on Wednesday, Patrick Andrew Ceniceros, 59, walked into the Tustin Police Department station, said Lt. Andy Birozy.
“He came in voluntarily,” Birozy said.
After talking to investigators from the police department and Orange County Fire Authority, Ceniceros was arrested on suspicion of starting the fire. He was a resident of the complex, and lived in the unit where the blaze broke out with at least one other person, Birozy said.
Police don’t know why Ceniceros allegedly started the fire. They did not release details about how it was ignited or what the suspected arsonist told investigators, citing the pending investigation.
Rumors about a possible fight or altercation preceding the start of the blaze have been circulating in the community since Ceniceros’s arrest, Birozy said. Investigators had neither verified or disproven whether that had happened as of Thursday evening. Tustin Police have asked anyone who might have information regarding the fire to call officers at 714-573-3200.
The suspect suffered a medical issue at about 3:20 p.m., which delayed his formal booking on suspicion of arson that afternoon, Birozy said. He declined to say if that was related to any injuries suffered during the fire.
Officials were still working as of Thursday evening to tally the losses, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said.