Man arrested in connection to fire that damaged 3 Visalia businesses

VISALIA, Calif. (KFSN) -- 56-year-old Jessie Hager was arrested by the Visalia Police Department Monday evening for setting a trash bin on fire in downtown Visalia that spread to three businesses.

"We couldn't believe it," says Décor to Adore Co-owner Octavio Burciaga. "It shocks you. You can't believe it and you can't put the pieces together."

Burciaga says they had only been there for a few months and didn't have insurance yet.

Visalia Mayor Steve Nelsen says he feels for everyone impacted and knows several of the employees at Alejandra's Restaurant had worked there for decades.

"In some cases, they may be the breadwinner of the family and now their source of revenues is depleted," Nelsen said. "We are hopeful they all have insurance so they can continue to pay employees for a while."

Hager was booked on four counts of arson. Sgt. Mike Short with Visalia police says they've come in contact with him in the past and he has an extensive criminal background.

"We've had some contact with him," he said. "Misdemeanor type of arrest, nothing, though, to lead us to believe this was something in his future."

Hager is also no stranger to community members.

"Some of our homeless outreach folks have made contact with him in the past," Short said. "We do know he has some family and friends in the area he will stay with from time to time."

Nelsen says these types of incidents are becoming more common.

"We've always had issues in the issue of transients," he said. "But for some reason, it seems we are now in that cycle where it's more predominant and more severe."

The district attorney's office is waiting for a report to be submitted for review.

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