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Rohnert Park apartment building fire treated as a crime

Petaluma Fire Marshal Cary Fergus helps with the fire investigation at an apartment structure fire on Beverly Drive in Rohnert Park in January.

PD FILE, 2013
Published: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 19, 2013 at 4:03 p.m.

At the very least, someone helped fan the flames of a Jan. 21 fire that swept through a Rohnert Park apartment building and displaced 15 people, authorities said Tuesday.

"That fire was definitely helped; we are treating it as a crime," said Rohnert Park Fire Lt. John Marty. "We're pretty convinced that human hands had something to do it."

The 1:43 a.m. fire at the two-story Beverly Apartments off East Cotati Avenue started in a corner of a concrete-floored carport. It quickly spread to the apartments above, which were built about 40 years ago.

Investigators with the city's Public Safety Department, the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and an insurance company all separately ruled out "everything that would be attributed to common accidental cause," including vehicles, electrical wiring and barbecues, Marty said.

But the blaze could not be accurately described as an arson fire, because that would assume a premeditated intent that hasn't been established, he said.

"All we can say is it's incendiary in nature at this point, and try to track down a suspect," he said.

"We don't know if it's deliberate or not, but something was introduced," he said. "There wasn't enough fuel load for the rapid progression of fire."

That scenario could include someone coming upon the fire in progress and adding something to it that helped it grow.

Investigators are following a passel of leads, none "particularly strong," Marty said. Among areas still being looked at are whether any resident was targeted and potential links to some "very similar" fire incidents elsewhere in the Bay Area, he said.

The blaze caused an estimated $1 million in damage and destroyed six one-bedroom apartments and at least six cars.

A good Samaritan rescued several occupants, among them two young children dropped to him from the second floor by their mother when the family was trapped by flames.

The City Council later recognized Trevor Kasimoff, 23, for his lifesaving role, awarding him Certificate of Recognition for Outstanding Service.

You can reach Staff Writer Jeremy Hay at 521-5212 or jeremy.hay@pressdemocrat.com.

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