Homeless man jailed, accused of setting fire

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comFebruary 26, 2013 

A homeless man was arrested early Tuesday on suspicion of setting fire to a portable office building at a former lumber yard near Highway 59 and Santa Fe Drive.

Michael Moyer, 53, was arrested by Merced police and booked on suspicion of arson. No injuries were reported.

The fire started about 7 a.m. and was under control by 7:25 a.m. said fire Battalion Chief Don Roe. Three engines and a truck, with a crew of 13, responded, as well as Merced police.

The building was unoccupied, but there were transients living in it, Roe said. First responders initially were worried that there were transients caught in the fire, but after searching through the debris, that was ruled out.

There were four transients in the area at the time of the fire, but officials suspect that it was only Moyer who started the blaze, Roe said.

Though severely damaged, much of the building was intact after the fire was extinguished.

Roe said the structure was in poor condition when the fire started. He estimated the damage to be about $5,000. There were no utilities running to the building.

Officials are investigating the incident. It's unknown who alerted authorities about the fire, out of which 84 Lumber Co. used to operate. The company closed in 2007.

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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