Pasco man charged with setting fire to market, fence

A 44-year-old man was charged Thursday in Franklin County Superior Court with allegedly starting two fires in Pasco, including one that damaged a grocery store.

Abel Yanez Contreras has a hearing scheduled Sept. 29 on one count each of second-degree arson, a felony, and second-degree reckless burning, a gross misdemeanor.

He initially was charged with the same crimes in Franklin County District Court.

The Pasco man also is a prime suspect in dozens of other fires around Pasco, including fires that have started in alleys north of downtown during the summer, said police.

Fire officials report there have been at least 55 suspicious fires in the city since June.

Supermex El Pueblo Market was damaged Oct. 18 and security cameras reportedly show the arsonist as wearing dark clothes and a head lamp with a large flashlight on the handlebars of a bicycle, court documents said.

Contreras was stopped on his bike two days later because he matched the description. He told an officer he was mad at the Pasco Police Department because they had gotten him kicked out of his house and he now was homeless, documents show.

The reckless burning charge is for a fence fire that broke out Aug. 19 on Pearl Street. A witness reported seeing someone leave on a bicycle.

Contreras has been held on $10,000 bail since his arrest.