SAN JOSE -- In a span of 48 hours, seven suspicious fires were started outside homes, businesses and a portable building on a church property along a stretch of San Antonio Street, raising concern that an arsonist is at work.
The San Jose Fire Department responded Friday morning to three fires within 45 minutes around 24th and San Antonio streets, according to Capt. Mike Van Elgort. Since Wednesday, firefighters have responded to seven suspicious blazes in the same area, all within an approximately 5-mile radius.
"We are actively pursuing the evidence we have, and we are on the trail," Van Elgort said. "Clearly these fires are suspicious. You don't have multiple exterior fires with no ignition source. It is very scary; from the perspective this person has no regard for the fellow citizens of San Jose. They are putting them at risk."
Fire officials did not immediately provide information on all seven fires, citing the investigation.
One of the Friday's suspicious fires happened at a townhome at 28th and San Antonio. Martha Yanez said she and her husband woke up at 3:45 a.m. to the sounds of a man screaming outside their window "your house is on fire."
"We jumped off the bed and looked out the window," Yanez said.
The couple ran outside and began throwing water on the flames, Yanez said. She then ran inside the home and got her 11-year-old son to come help.
Yanez said they extinguished the fire quickly, before firefighters arrived.
"We turned it off, and we're all OK but my children are scared," Yanez said.
The fire burned just below the bedroom window of one of her children. One exterior wall was burned to the roof's edge where the first and second stories meet.
Yanez said she is "nervous and scared, wondering why and who is doing it."
The string of fires Friday morning comes on the heels of a massive five-alarm blaze that destroyed a large warehouse on East Julian Street, located about a mile away. Friday morning, firefighters said they do not believe the warehouse fire is connected to fires along San Antonio Street.
"We urge residents to be vigilant," said Councilman Sam Liccardo, whose district encompasses all seven of the suspicious fires "It's obvious that an arsonist has been at work over the last several days, and we're actively working with residents in the surrounding community to ensure people stay safe.
"Fortunately the rapid response of the fire department, and of concerned neighbors, has prevented any injuries."
Friday morning, firefighters also responded to a fire at 24th and San Antonio streets at about 3:31 a.m. and a fire at Peach Court.
"We have fire cause investigators and SJPD working together, scouring the area, interviewing occupants, and best we can, determine if these are suspicious, and if they are, catch the suspect, " Van Elgort said.
The building at 1165 Peach Court is home of a MGM Drywall, a commercial and residential drywall company. Sal Madrigal, the company's vice president, said someone tried to ignite his building two nights in a row.
Thursday morning, someone stuck a burning object through the company's mail slot, sparking other documents to catch fire, Madrigal said. The work foreman came into the office at about 5:05 a.m., noticed some smoke and put the small fire out.
Early Friday between 4:30 and 5 a.m., someone tried to pull a plywood panel off the side of the shop and stuffed newspapers inside. Madrigal said the person lit the newspapers on fire, but damage was minimal.
"It makes us nervous, especially with all the information, documents, years of information that is irreplaceable," Madrigal said. "It could really effect our day to day operations."
Just down the road from MGM Drywall there was a suspicious fire early Wednesday morning at Greater St. John Baptist Church that damaged a large portable located in the parking lot.
Deacon Felix Gibson said the portable was used as a classroom for both youth and adult programs.
"Of all places you would think that someone would not is set a church grounds on fire," Gibson said. "It's just crazy, man. I just don't understand the motive behind it."
Gibson said the damage caused by the fire has left the portable unusable.
Also Thursday morning, a husband and wife were asleep in a back bedroom of their home on South 17th Street at San Antonio Street when the woman woke up to the blaring sound of a smoke detector. The couple discovered flames shooting into their living room from the front porch and safely escaped through the back of their house.
The fire department said the cause of the three-alarm blaze is under investigation, and as of Friday morning did not specify if that was one of the seven suspicious blazes.
"It's one thing to have your place of business attacked, and it's another thing to have your home endangered, especially if you have a family," Madrigal said. "I can imagine how nerve-wracking that might be."