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Orange County

Arrest Made in String of School Fires

January 27, 2002|DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Police arrested a Costa Mesa man early Saturday on suspicion of setting a series of fires at a local high school.

Peter Dale Garrett, 42, was arrested on suspicion of arson and is being held at Orange County Jail in lieu of $50,000 bail.

"Stuff like this isn't always limited to juveniles," said Lt. Les Gogerty, a Costa Mesa Police Department spokesman. "It's not uncommon to have adults do this kind of thing."

Garrett was arrested about 4:30 a.m. after investigators saw him standing next to a portable toilet at Costa Mesa High School in the 2600 block of Fairview Avenue.

As they watched, Gogerty said, the toilet burst into flames and Garrett tried to run away carrying a gas can.

The blaze, which caused an estimated $1,000 damage, was quickly extinguished.

Arson investigators had begun a 24-hour surveillance of the campus after a suspicious blaze gutted a classroom for hearing-impaired students late Thursday. The fire was the third such incident this month, investigators said, with two previous fires damaging portable toilets on the football field.

The damage caused by the series of fires, they said, was estimated at $85,000.

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