A 59-year-old resident of a two-story apartment building in Tustin was in custody Thursday on suspicion of setting the predawn five-alarm blaze that damaged or destroyed 38 of the building's 40 units.
Patrick Andrew Ceniceros made incriminating statements while being interviewed by Orange County Fire Authority detectives, according to Lt. Andrew Birozy of the Tustin Police Department. He was arrested about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Birozy said.
The fast-moving fire, which displaced dozens of residents, two of whom suffered smoke inhalation, was reported at 3:01 a.m. Wednesday at Chatham Village apartments at 15751 Williams St., near McFadden Avenue, and wasn't fully extinguished until 8:04 a.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority. The blaze caused the roof to collapse.
One resident was initially listed as missing, but was later located, said OCFA Capt. Tony Bommarito. He said 62 residents sought shelter and services from the American Red Cross.
Bommarito said the first firefighters on the scene encountered heavy fire on the first floor that quickly extended to the second floor and the attic.
"That's how that fire traveled so quickly," he said. "We had roof collapse in about 24 minutes, which is very quick for a building of this size."
The entire building is "pretty much a loss," as even the lower units not affected by flames are "uninhabitable" due to water and smoke damage, Bommarito said, adding that about 120 firefighters battled the flames.
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A man found suffering from smoke inhalation was taken to a hospital, and a woman was treated at the scene. Both were described as senior citizens.
Police went unit to unit to alert residents as the flames quickly spread through the complex.
"I woke up and I looked out the back yard and there was (flames). The
cops were banging on our door, saying, 'Get out, there's a fire,'" 13-year-old Angelina Gonzalez said. "All our stuff was in there. I got my dogs, and I ran out."