Hanford Firefighter Arrested

March 14, 2008 6:52:05 PM PDT
Investigators say they caught Hanford firefighter Justin Gomez right before he could start another fire.The Fire Chief tells me firefighter Gomez actually came out to put out two of these fires.

Black ashes and burnt wood is all that's left of what was supposed to be a brand new home. According to the site manager of the development, the house had already been bought. Police say the fire was so destructive it charred the sides of the two homes next to it. This was the third home set on fire in a new housing development in a little more than a week. All the houses were empty. This model home was set on fire from the back of the house. A sign posted on the door said it was temporarily closed for remodeling.

Lt. Greg Freiner, Hanford Police Department: "The others were in the process of being built they were either stick structures one of them had some paper on the walls."

Hanford police and fire investigators camped out Thursday night at every new housing development in town to try and catch the arsonist.

Freiner: "Last night in the process an officer assigned to that detail observed an individual jump a fence and go to a van."

Hanford Fire Chief Tim Leronimo: "We believe that he was attempting to set another fire."

Detectives quickly arrested the man. They were shocked to find out he was a Hanford Volunteer Fire Fighter. Fire Chief Leronemo says he's disappointed.

Leronimo: "Arson is a very serious crime and regardless of how the person's employed it always upsets whether it's a person within our outside the department I would say we were surprised."

22-year old Justin Gomez worked as a volunteer firefighter for three years. Investigators say they found flammable liquid on him when he was arrested.

Leronimo: "Volunteer firefighter Gomez had been a good volunteer for us we've had no problems with him he came to the meetings and participated in the department as any other individual would."

In total more than half a million dollars in damage was done. Investigators are trying to keep the cause of the fires under wraps in case there are any more suspects out there.


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