A 44-year-old Safford man was arrested Friday night on suspicion of arson after witnesses told police they saw him break into his former girlfriend’s empty apartment shortly before smoke started pouring out of the apartment and the fire alarm began blaring. A 92-year-old woman living in a nearby apartment had to be evacuated from her home.
Safford Police received a call shortly after 10:30 p.m. Friday about a man breaking a window at a 20th Avenue apartment complex. When they arrived, they found an empty apartment on fire and an elderly woman in a nearby apartment, according to police reports. The woman was led to safety as other officers worked to subdue the flames until firefighters arrived.
One witnesses told police she saw a man later identified as Stephen Salas, 44, break a window in the apartment prior to the fire. Another woman said she heard a loud crash and Salas yelling and repeatedly banging on an apartment door. She said she saw a flash come out of the apartment as the fire alarm began to blare and smoke started coming out of the apartment.
Officers found blood leading away from the scene and encountered Salas coming out of the shadows with blood on his arms and T-shirt, according to police reports. It was later discovered he had a cut on one of his hands.
Salas declined to speak with authorities. He was booked into jail on suspicion of arson of an occupied structure, second-degree burglary, criminal damage and threats.
According to authorities, towels and blankets were set on fire along with a chair in the center of the apartment. The apartment sustained heavy smoke and heat damage and was deemed uninhabitable.