A Guadalupe man was arrested after allegedly using a Christmas tree to start a fire in the lobby of the Santa Maria Police Department’s 2-year-old station early Sunday.
Just before 4 a.m., Santa Maria police officers were dispatched to the front lobby, where a man had called the dispatch center saying he was paranoid and believed someone had hacked into his computer.
The man, Steven Minami, 23, had used the inter-office phone for the public to talk to dispatchers after normal business hours.
“When officers did not respond as quickly as Minami wanted, he grabbed a department-decorated Christmas tree and placed it on top of some chairs,” Lt. Terry Flaa said. “Minami then lit the tree on fire, which caused the building’s fire protection sprinkler system to activate.”
“The emergency sprinkler system performed properly and quickly extinguished the fire; however, a large amount of smoke filled the front of the building,” Flaa said.
Minami was immediately located in front of the police station and arrested.
A portion of the police station’s interior walls and flooring sustained water and smoke damage.
Minami was booked into Santa Barbara County Jail on suspicion of felony arson, vandalism and public intoxication, with bail set at $250,000.