Wave of arsons damage 2 Salem businesses

Published: Dec. 18, 2022 at 10:33 PM PST
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - A man was arrested on arson charges in connection with a Saturday night fire set inside a dumpster near the BottleDrop Redemption Center off Lancaster Drive, according to Salem police.

It’s unclear whether the business was damaged in the fire, but police said it was one of four separate cases of arson in a span of hours in the area.

The last fire, set at Lucky Fortune Restaurant and Lounge early Sunday morning, ripped through the building, causing significant damage to the restaurant.

Police did not say where the other two fires were located, nor whether the suspect in the BottleDrop case, 28-year-old Leonardo Hernandez-Cruz, could be responsible for any of the other fires.

RELATED: 1 arrested after late-night dumpster fire in Salem

This comes as Salem police are investigating a separate case of arson that heavily damaged another business early Monday morning.

The owner of Lighthouse Home Loans has surveillance video that clearly shows someone intentionally setting the business garbage can on fire.

In the footage, a man approaches fenced-off garbage cans. He reaches through the fence then opens the can and uses a lighter to set some cardboard on fire. He waits for the flames to intensify before walking off.

The fire badly damaged the building, which will need significant repairs, said owner Phil Gernstner.

Gernstner said he was shocked when he watched the surveillance cameras back.

“I couldn’t believe someone would do that,” Gernstner said. “Obviously, it makes you angry, then it makes you wonder why, and you still wonder why.”

He doesn’t have a big business, but the fire impacted the livelihoods of nine people, he said.

“They’ve got families to support, and we need to work to do that.”

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Gernstner said he and his staff can work remotely and other businesses and the Chamber of Commerce have offered up conference rooms as well.

“We’ll survive, but it will definitely set us a back a bit,” Gernstner said.

Gernstner said he wonders whether the person who set his building ablaze is the same person arrested in the BottleDrop case. He said he plans to attend Hernandez-Cruz’s arraignment on Monday out of curiosity. The arraignment is scheduled for Monday afternoon at the Marion County Courthouse.

A police spokesperson said the Lighthouse Home Loans case was a “separate and active investigation” from the BottleDrop case, and that they do not believe the two are related.