The normally quiet neighborhood of Bernal Heights saw an arsonist destroy four cars by setting them ablaze around 9:30 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, and some yet-unconfirmed reports say the same individual may have tried to burn at least one house, too.
Bernal Heights is generally a pretty sleepy place, though bordering on the Mission District, it gets its share of fireworks booms on New Year’s Eve. But the neighborhood got pyrotechnics of the wrong kind on Sunday night, as the Chronicle reports that an arsonist torched four cars on the 300 block of Park Street (right by Holly Park). The incident happened shortly before 9:30 p.m., and while no one was injured, there are reports that someone attempted to light a house on fire in the neighborhood shortly around the same time.
Bernal Heights (94110) arson Dec 31.— Theo Marks (@MarksTheo32251) January 1, 2024
According to SFFD the perp is igniting vehicles using gasoline.
The tennis court nets in Saint Mary's Park were also torched last night. It is believed a serial arsonist is at large. pic.twitter.com/cHSEQqnfCA
The above car is also seen in NBC Bay Area’s report on the burned cars, as that car was burned in a driveway, and the others were burned parked on the street. NBC Bay Area spoke with the daughter of the car’s owner, Lila Nelson. “We turn to the right and see my boyfriend‘s car is in flames and then we see the cars in front of it are also in flames,” Nelson told the station. “And then we turn to our left here and our car was on fire too.”
But more importantly, NBC Bay Area’s report has video footage of an apparent suspect. While the cars are burning, one neighbor’s surveillance video captured footage of a brunette man in a white shirt, seen walking by with a gas can in his hand.
And there may have been more fires which that or other arsonists tried to set that evening. The SF Standard spoke to a resident who gave an account of someone else’s security video which he claimed he had seen, wherein per the Standard’s words, “his neighbors' security footage also showed the perpetrator pouring gas onto garages, into the engine bays of cars and even up the stairs of one home where he said children were celebrating New Year's Eve.”
The SFPD declined to comment on that aspect of the story.
But the district’s Supervisor Hillary Ronen is talking. “I’m hopeful that there will be accountability in this case shortly,” Ronen told the Chronicle. “I also know that the event is being taken very seriously and that there are leads, and investigation is happening.”
Ronen added she and the Ingleside police captain would be meeting with victims and neighbors Thursday, though it’s not clear at what time or where that meeting will be, or if it will be public.
No arrests have been made. If you have any information on this incident, you’re asked to call the SFPD tip line at 415-575-4444, or text a tip to TIP411 and begin the message with “SFPD.” Tipsters can remain anonymous.
Image: Bernalwood: Discussion via Facebook