Man Charged with Setting Tustin Apartment Building Fire

SANTA ANA (CNS) - A 59-year-old Tustin man was charged today with setting a 5-alarm blaze at a Tustin apartment building that displaced about a hundred residents and killed a dog.

Patrick Andrew Ceniceros was charged with a count of aggravated arson with damage exceeding $8.3 million, arson of inhabited property, arson of a 2001 Ford Mustang and animal abuse by a caretaker for the death of the dog, according to court records. All counts are felonies.

Ceniceros also faces a sentencing enhancement for arson with an accelerant and a prior conviction for attempted murder in October 2009 out of San Bernardino County, according to court records.

Ceniceros, who was hospitalized today, had an arraignment hearing via teleconference call and video in the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana. He did not enter a plea and the arraignment was rescheduled for Feb. 27.

He was being held on $1 million bail.

Rep. Katie Porter, D-Irvine, met with the displaced residents Friday. The Orange County Rescue Mission announced it was helping the fire victims and asked anyone wishing to donate clothes or other necessities to drop them off at 1 Hope Drive in Tustin.

Ceniceros allegedly made incriminating statements while being interviewed by Orange County Fire Authority detectives, according to Lt. Andrew Birozy of the Tustin Police Department. He was arrested about 8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Birozy said.

The fast-moving fire, which displaced dozens of residents, two of whom suffered smoke inhalation, was reported about 3 a.m. Wednesday at Chatham Village apartments at 15751 Williams St., near McFadden Avenue, and wasn't fully extinguished until about 8 a.m., according to the Orange County Fire Authority. The blaze caused the roof to collapse.

OCFA Capt. Tony Bommarito said 62 residents sought shelter and services from the American Red Cross.

Bommarito said the first firefighters on the scene encountered heavy fire on the first floor that quickly extended to the second floor and the attic.

``That's how that fire traveled so quickly,'' he said. ``We had roof collapse in about 24 minutes, which is very quick for a building of this size.''

The entire building is ``pretty much a loss,'' as even the lower units not affected by flames are ``uninhabitable'' due to water and smoke damage, Bommarito said, adding that about 120 firefighters battled the flames.

A man found suffering from smoke inhalation was taken to a hospital, and a woman was treated at the scene. Both were described as senior citizens.

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