A South Pasadena man suspected of setting 21 brush or car fires in the city and four more in Pasadena over the last six months was arrested Sunday.
Javier Adolfo Viera, 35, admitted starting most of the fires, including several in which homemade incendiary devices were tossed from a moving vehicle into dry brush along the Arroyo Seco, South Pasadena police Det. Bill Earley said.
The fires started in November and escalated to include blazes set under parked vehicles and one in the doorway of a business. No injuries were reported as a result of the fires.
South Pasadena and Pasadena authorities had Viera under surveillance Sunday before a car fire occurred in the 6100 block of Oak Hill Avenue in Los Angeles.
“We watched [Viera] fill a bag with dried vegetation and take it in his car. [While on the move] he undertook several countersurveillance measures, including driving the wrong way on one-way streets, and we ended up losing him a few blocks from where the last fire occurred,” Earley said. “While we were searching for [Viera], there was a witness who saw him light the fire under a vehicle.”
South Pasadena officers had contacted Viera on Saturday in the vicinity of a car fire and had recovered his fingerprints from a device used to set an earlier fire, according to police.
Devices used to set brush fires in the Arroyo included heavy objects and flammable materials wrapped tightly in paper.
Their contents “varied from rocks to oranges to pens,” Earley said. “He was still experimenting.”
Viera was being held at Pasadena City Jail on Monday pending the filing of as many as 26 felony arson charges.
Earley said Viera, the father of three young children, told detectives he was struggling with anger issues related to childhood trauma and rekindled by job-related and financial troubles.
“At first, [Viera] denied setting the fires, but later he did admit it and said he felt better afterward,” Earley said.