Man lights fires inside gas station, prompts scare when firefighters fear he’s armed, officials say

Police say they rushed to the scene of a gas station fire this morning after firefighters reported finding a person inside with a gun, but when the man was taken into custody, authorities didn’t find any weapon.

The situation started around 9 a.m. when a man went into a gas station at Atlantic Avenue and Wardlow Road where he started lighting items on fire in a stockroom, according to a Long Beach fire official.

When an employee tried to stop him, there was an altercation, according to the LBFD, and when firefighters arrived, they called in police, thinking the man may have been armed.

Firefighters helped subdue the man until officers arrived and took him into custody, according to the department.

When police arrested the man, they did not find any weapon, according to LBPD spokesman Brandon Fahey.

Police identified the man as a 51-year-old resident of Bellflower. He was arrested on suspicion of arson and booked into Long Beach Jail in lieu of $75,000 bail, Fahey said.

The gas station employee was taken to the hospital to treat burns he sustained trying to put out the fire, but nobody else was hurt, according to a Long Beach Fire Department official.

Editor’s note: This story was updated with more information from police and fire officials.

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Kelly Puente is an award-winning general assignment and special projects reporter at the Long Beach Post. She has worked as a journalist in Long Beach since 2006, covering everything from education and crime to courts and breaking news. Kelly previously worked at the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the Orange County Register before joining the Post in 2018. She is currently pursuing a master’s degree in public policy and administration at Cal State Long Beach. Reach her at [email protected].