An arsonist broke into a fabric warehouse, Sal Beressi Fabrics, on Bryant Street near Alameda Street at 9:40 p.m. on Monday night, where he went on a destructive rampage before setting fire to a bathroom.
“He climbed on top of that truck and broke the window,” said Haim Beressi, the property manager. The arsonist, who was captured on the building’s security cameras, climbed atop a delivery truck sitting in the building’s parking lot and broke through a second-floor window. He then walked past racks of fabric to a back bathroom, where he “ripped the door, smashed the toilet and sink, and tore this place to pieces,” according to Beressi.
“This guy seemed to clearly have some drug issues,” Beressi said, adding that the area frequently sees car break-ins, bicycle thefts, and other petty crimes that he connected to nearby homeless encampments.
Often the same people are captured on video breaking into cars, Beressi said, but they seem undeterred by the security cameras and return time after time. He has called Supervisor David Campos about the problem in the last year and noticed some police activity removing encampments, but said the camps are quickly set up again.
“I’d like to see the area cleaned up,” he said. “I don’t think it serves anybody well to allow people to live on the streets, I think it’s a disservice.”
Beressi said people have broken into the building before and stolen computers and other property, but that this is the most extreme crime he’s seen.
Heather Kilpack, co-owner of the fabric store, said the arsonist also tore cabinets off the walls, smashed some art, and tore a stanchion off the wall. She also connected the arson to the homeless encampments nearby, saying “the neighborhood has just gotten so crazy” in the last year.
“I harbor no ill will towards anyone who’s homeless, they’re doing everything they can to get their lives together,” she said. But the fire was potentially dangerous, Kipack said, and “He was just out of his mind.”
Police report the suspect fled through a window and down the fire escape. Alarm systems alerted police and the store owners to the break-in, and firefighters responded to control the fire.
“The fire department did a really good job of keeping it to one particular area of our store, maybe one tenth of our store suffered water damage and whatnot,” Kilpack said. She said the fire department estimated some $15,000 in damages, but that it would be weeks before she knew whether her fabrics were smoke-damaged or not.
“My biggest fear is that I don’t know what’s happened to these fabrics. I’m not going to know if these are sellable or if it’s a huge loss,” she said, estimating that there might be as much as $200,000 in lost fabrics. “It hard enough to own a business in this city. You spend 11-12 years of your life working as hard as you can, all my money is in this store.”
“But it could’ve been so much worse,” she added, pointing to the many racks of cloth that might have gone up in flames. “He could have set the bolts [of fabric] on fire.”
The fabric store will be closed until Thursday. Kilpack will know how her insurance company handles her claim soon and the extent of her damages, and is unsure about the future of the business — but is glad that the building was empty when the fire broke out.
“I’m just very grateful that there was no one in the store when this absolutely insane person broke in,” she said. “I just pray that this guy doesn’t hurt nobody. I just hope they find this guy.”
Police have not yet made an arrest, but Beressi did make a report with the video evidence from his security cameras.