Pittsburg man suspected of lighting more than 50 fires in store dumpsters
KTVU.com and Wires
CONTRA COSTA Co., Calif. —
A Pittsburg man has been arrested and charged with felony arson for allegedly setting more than 50 fires in eastern Contra Costa County over the past two years, authorities said.
Police arrested 53-year-old Thomas Hartman on Dec. 15 after a lengthy investigation indicated that he lit fires at seven shopping centers in Pittsburg, Antioch and Bay Point since January 2010, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials said.
He now faces felony arson charges in Contra Costa County Superior Court, according to the district attorney's office.
Fire district officials said Wednesday that Hartman is believed to have started fires in Dumpsters behind the retail centers between January 2010 and Dec. 3 of this year.
Investigators used surveillance footage and other evidence to link Hartman to the arsons, and were assisted by Antioch and Pittsburg police, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Fire officials estimated that the fires have caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the dumpsters and to nearby buildings' exterior walls.
No one was injured in any of the fires.
The fire district advises storeowners to keep Dumpsters locked, away from buildings and stowed in well-lit areas.
Anyone with information about this case was asked to call the fire district's arson tip line at (866) 502-7766.
Hartman was scheduled to return to court to enter a plea on Dec. 29.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.