An unidentified man set a fire at the Crown Hotel and SRO at 16th and Valencia late Monday morning. According to witnesses, the man broke the glass of a fire extinguisher case inside the building and used it to attempt to break into a resident’s room, and then reportedly spread gasoline on the hotel’s walls and floors. The man was taken into custody by police, witnesses said, and by noon a manager informed residents they would have to wait about another hour for water used to extinguish the fire to be cleaned up from the building.
Samantha Helstrom, a resident of the Crown Hotel for about a year and a half, said she came out of her room after she heard glass breaking. She saw a man banging on a resident’s door, apparently trying to break in and possibly manipulating a gasoline can. Shortly after, she saw smoke coming from the resident’s room and the man running downstairs.
Helstrom said she ran back inside to get water to put out the fire and managed to get a few buckets on the flames before the sprinkler system turned on and the building was evacuated.
“The fire was pretty contained at that point between the sprinklers and me being a crazy fool,” Helstrom said, referring to her efforts to extinguish the flames.
Benji Francois, who has been in the building less than a week, said he usually ignores yelling and commotion since they’re so common, but when water started coming into his room from the sprinkler system, he knew something serious had happened. He said he opened his door to see flames, and then ran out of the building.
“Not a good way to wake up,” Francois said.
He added that the suspect was bleeding as police took him into custody, though he could not identify his injuries. Helstrom said he was of medium build and estimated he was about six feet tall.
Update 2/3/14: A police crime recap confirms that a man spread gasoline on the floor and then set fire to it inside the Crown Hotel yesterday, that the fire was extinguished, and that the suspect is in custody.