A serial arsonist has been arrested and confessed to setting 13 fires in Flushing, including a three-alarm inferno that injured 19 firefighters and two civilians in August, fire officials said.
Thien K. Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was arraigned in Queens on September 15 and charged with starting a series of fires within a three-week span across Flushing and Murray Hill from August 20 to September 13, according to the district attorney’s office. He faces two counts of second-degree arson, four counts of third-degree arson, 13 counts of first-degree reckless endangerment and third-degree burglary.
“Arson is a callous crime that shows total disregard for the lives and property of those it impacts,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. “I commend our fire marshals in the Bureau of Fire Investigation for their tireless efforts to apprehend this individual whose actions have endangered the lives of New York City residents, injured many firefighters and caused a tremendous amount of property damage.”
Dinh admitted to the offences, according to a criminal complaint, including igniting the blaze at 143-01 45th Avenue near Bowne Street on August 20 that gutted adjacent businesses and totaled the four-story multiple family dwelling.
He said he first broke into the laundromat on the first floor of the building, where officials said the flames originated from, using a hammer to smash through a window and lit clothing and paper on fire, the criminal complaint said.
Dinh also owned up to starting the other rubbish fires that lit up Flushing over the last few weeks, the district attorney said, which caused extensive damage to numerous parked vehicles and multiple buildings. In several instances, Dinh allegedly set fire to 30 to 40 garbage bags lined up on the curb and to furniture thrown out on the sidewalk.
Fire officials said the Bronx resident has 45 prior arrests for many crimes including burglary, property damage and criminal mischief. He is due back in court on October 3.