Arson investigators are looking into whether a mentally ill homeless man who allegedly set a fire near a Castro district home last week may also have lit several residential buildings ablaze during an alarming 24-hour period in the neighborhood last year.
Douglas Kinder, 61, was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of setting a blaze that shot up 15 feet and came dangerously close to scorching a home in the 4000 block of 17th Street, according to police.
A witness told police he saw Kinder climb over two gates to gain access to the property. Although one of the fences was locked, Officer Carlos Manfredi said police could see Kinder rambling incoherently and allegedly squirting liquid from a white plastic bottle onto bushes.
While officers climbed the first gate, he lit the bushes on fire, police said. He then locked the inner gate to hinder officers before retreating to the backyard. Cops eventually got in, stamped out the fire and took Kinder into custody after a struggle, Manfredi said.
There were no major injuries or damage to buildings.
Kinder was sent for a mental health evaluation after attacking emergency personnel, Manfredi said.
The scenario was eerily similar to several building fires that were set in the Castro in just over a 24-hour period in February 2011.
The morning of Feb. 3, 2011, three suspicious arson fires broke out, two of which severely damaged Victorian homes. The first was a “very simple” fire in a recycling bin at 2155 15th St. Two subsequent fires that morning ravaged homes at 17th and Hartford and Market and 16th streets.
The next morning, a blaze was set at a third Victorian home at 18th and Collingwood streets.
In at least one of the blazes, accelerant was dumped on the front doors of the building.
An arrest was never made in that series of fires. At the time, however, the owner of one of the victimized buildings told The San Francisco Examiner that days before the arsons, police arrested a “deranged” homeless man who had threatened to set the Castro ablaze.
Kinder, who was convicted of arson more than a decade ago, pleaded not guilty Friday to multiple charges related to Wednesday’s blaze, prosecutors said. His bail was set at $400,000 and he is scheduled to appear in court today.