Authorities on Wednesday arrested two transients suspected of starting a fire in an abandoned building last month.
The Riverside Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing Team and Riverside Fire Department arson investigators collaboratively developed information that led to identifying two local homeless men believed to have been involved in setting the fire, according to Riverside city officials.
Both suspects were arrested in the 2900 block of Iowa Avenue — 41-year-old Isaac Gutierrez Avila of Riverside was booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center for arson and several misdemeanor warrants, officials said. He was still in custody, held on $50,000 bail. Pasha Sadavandi, 40, of Riverside, was also booked into the Robert Presley Detention Center as an accessory to arson, and was still in custody held on $25,000 bail.
On May 16 at approximately 4:46 a.m., Riverside public safety dispatchers received reports of a structure fire at 3460 Orange St. in downtown Riverside. When firefighters arrived minutes later they discovered what appeared to be an unoccupied building with smoke and flames shooting out of the roof. The whole first floor to the two-story building was boarded, forcing firefighters to open the boarded areas and initiate an aggressive fire attack.
“Because the growth and development of the fire intensified with the potential of an imminent collapse of the structure, all fire personnel were removed from the interior and a defensive attack began with the goal of saving the surrounding buildings, including a nearby senior living facility,” officials said Friday in a statement announcing the arrests.
Responders to the three-alarm blaze included five chief officers, five engine companies, three ladder trucks, one rescue squad, 33 firefighters, one safety officer, two arson investigators, as well as breathing support and mutual aid from the Riverside County Fire Department, American Medical Response, Riverside Public Works and Public Utilities and the Riverside Police Department.
“Once the visible fire was extinguished, it still took several days before a complete search inside the building for potential victims could begin due to the unstableness of the structure and smoldering areas within,” officials said. “Riverside Police maintained a security presence around fire scene overnight during this time.”
Nearly 6 million gallons of water were used to extinguish the fire by rotating engine crews for 16 consecutive hours, according to the city of Riverside, which owns the fire-ravaged property that now has an estimated multimillion-dollar monetary loss. The building has since been completely demolished.
The arson investigation was ongoing, and no further details were available.
Anyone with additional information on this building fire or suspects should contact Fire Capt. Ray Mendoza at 951-826-5640 or RBMendoza@RiversideCA.gov, or Police Officer Mike Smith at 951-826-8715 or MikeSmith@RiversideCA.gov.