TUSTIN (CBSLA) — Dozens of residents are without a home in Tustin after a 5-alarm blaze at an apartment building early Wednesday.
On Wednesday night, 59-year-old Patrick Andrew Ceniceros was arrested by Tustin police on suspicion of arson. Police said he lived at the complex.
Neighbors had reported hearing loud bangs and yelling before the fire started and were suspicious that the blaze was set intentionally.
There was anger from the now-displaced residents after learning about the arson investigation.
“They cannot live comfortable right now,” said one man struggling to find out how to house his parents after the fire. “They lost their IDs, they lost social security, they lost their passport. They don’t have anything.”
Ceniceros voluntarily walked into the Tustin Police Department and agreed to be questioned in connection to the fire, according to police.
He has several past violent criminal convictions, including attempted murder and assault. Ceniceros is in custody but police are still working on identifying a motive in the case.
Flames were first reported at about 3 a.m. Feb. 12 at the Chatham Village Apartments, 15751 Williams Street. Firefighters arrived to find the building fully engulfed.
“There was a huge fire,” said Samara Carranza, who huddled in blankets with her sister and dog outside the building. “Everything was burning, the roof was going out. It was just so sad.”
Within 25 minutes of starting the firefight, the roof collapsed, and all firefighters were pulled out of the building, Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Tony Bommarito said. Video shows a portion of the smoldering roof falling off the building and falling onto the sidewalk, forcing firefighters back.
About 125 firefighters battled the blaze from a defensive position outside the two-story, 100-unit complex. Thirty-eight units were destroyed by the blaze.
Many of the residents were asleep when the fire broke out and said they were scrambling to get to safety. Some residents who escaped say they were awakened by the sound of people screaming and pounding on doors.
“Everyone was panicking,” resident Eymy Murillo said. “The people just didn’t know where to go, what to do. It was very scary.”
Residents displaced by the fire were asked to check in with the Red Cross at 1952 E. McFadden Ave. in Santa Ana. About 100 people have been displaced by the fire, and a bus was being sent to pick them up and take them to the Tustin-area senior center.
Two residents were taken to a hospital for smoke inhalation. At least one pet was killed in the fire.