A 61-year-old Tustin man pleaded guilty to setting a five-alarm blaze last year at a Tustin apartment building that displaced about 100 residents and killed a dog, court records obtained Tuesday show.
Patrick Andrew Ceniceros pleaded guilty on Monday to aggravated arson with property damage in excess of $8.3 million, arson of an inhabited structure, arson of property and cruelty to animals, all felonies.
He also admitted sentencing enhancements for using an acceleration device in an arson and is scheduled to be sentenced July 16 at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach.
Ceniceros has a prior conviction for attempted murder in October 2009 out of San Bernardino County, according to court records.
Ceniceros has been in custody since Feb. 12, 2020, when he made incriminating statements while being interviewed by Orange County Fire Authority detectives about the fire that was set in the pre-dawn hours that day, according to Tustin police Lt. Andrew Birozy.
The fast-moving fire which displaced dozens of residents, two of whom suffered smoke inhalation, was reported about 3 a.m. at Chatham Village apartments at 15751 Williams St., near McFadden Avenue, and wasn’t fully extinguished until about 8 a.m. The blaze caused the roof to collapse.
OCFA Capt. Tony Bommarito said 62 residents sought shelter and services from the American Red Cross.
Bommarito said the first firefighters on the scene encountered heavy fire on the first floor that quickly extended to the second floor and the attic.
“That’s how that fire traveled so quickly,” he said then. “We had roof collapse in about 24 minutes, which is very quick for a building of this size.”
The entire building was “pretty much a loss,” Bommarito said, as even the lower units not affected by flames were “uninhabitable” due to water and smoke damage. About 120 firefighters battled the flames.