Man charged in California Home Depot fire that could be seen from space

The 27-year-old suspect was allegedly trying to create a distraction after a theft of tools from the popular hardware store

Johanna Chisholm
Wednesday 20 April 2022 18:01 BST
California fire threatens hundreds of homes
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Louise Thomas

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Authorities in San Jose identified the man who has been arrested and charged with allegedly starting the massive five-alarm fire at a California Home Depot earlier this month that reportedly could be seen from space.

San Jose District Attorney Jeff Rosen confirmed during a press conference on Tuesday that Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue, 27, was arrested last Friday, less than two weeks after the 9 April blaze devastated the community and caused “tens of millions of dollars of damage and sent employees and customers running for their lives".

“Miraculously, no one was hurt in this five-alarm fire that was so hot and so large that it could be detected from a satellite in space,” said Mr Rosen, adding that he was thankful that his office wasn’t “prosecuting a multiple murder case”.

On a crowded Saturday afternoon, Mr Rosen explained, Mr Gogue allegedly lit the fire in an aisle inside the San Jose Home Depot as he attempted to cover up his attempt to steal a cart full of tools.

The 27-year-old suspect was stopped by an employee of the Home Depot before he could make off with the stolen tools, he added, but the damage from the suspected arson was done.

“The flames quicky enveloped and destroyed the entire store,” the district attorney said during the news conference.

Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue, 27, of San Jose, was arrested 15 April and he appeared in court 19 April.
Dyllin Jaycruz Gogue, 27, of San Jose, was arrested 15 April and he appeared in court 19 April. (San José Police)

While the 11,000-square-foot building burned, sending dark plumes of smoke into the sky and threatening to ensnare one of the hundreds of residential buildings in the surrounding areas, including an elementary school, Mr Rosen claimed that the suspect continued a shoplifting spree that took him as far as a Macy’s in East Bay.

The City of San José Fire Chief Robert Sapien confirmed during Tuesday’s press conference that it took 100 firefighters six hours to contain the blaze. Residents were also told to remain indoors due to the toxic chemicals that might be present in the air from the burning inventory at the popular home hardware chain.

Damages from the arson, the district attorney said, came to well over “tens of millions”, as the loss of inventory alone totalled $14m, which didn’t include the cost to repair the Home Depot’s infrastructure, which was left “a burned out shell”, nor the surrounding buildings.

Mr Gogue, who allegedly had also stolen from a Bass Pro Shop before the Home Depot incident, appeared in court on Tuesday and was provided a 1 June court date to enter a plea. In addition to aggravated arson, the 27-year-old is also charged with grand theft and petty theft.

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo thanked local authorities and firefighters for their quick and efficient work protecting the surrounding residents, with many “sensitive buildings” being only feet away from the incineration.

“[I’m] grateful it is only arson and theft investigation,” said the mayor to a news conference.

Witnesses who were inside the Home Depot when it was set ablaze told ABC7 News that there were no active signs of sprinklers or fire alarms inside the building at the time of the fire.

“We were watching the ceiling come down in flames before any alarm came on," Jeff Bahm, who was inside during the fire, told the news station. "It wasn’t until maybe three minutes after we left, this giant plume of smoke came rushing out to the front and then we all knew it is time to leave."

The city’s fire department says an investigation into the matter is underway.

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