Suspected arsonist in Santa Cruz County church hearth arrested


WATSONVILLE — Police arrested a suspected arsonist Tuesday in reference to a late-night hearth that left St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church broken and briefly shuttered, authorities stated.

Flames are seen billowing Monday evening from the again of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church on Principal Avenue after a hearth broke out contained in the construction. (Contributed — Alfredo Torres) 

Watsonville police authorities say Alberto Melgoza, 36, of Watsonville, was detained inside hours of the blaze with the assistance of church surveillance footage. Melgoza remained held with out bail at Santa Cruz County Jail on suspicion of misdemeanor vandalizing a spot of worship and felony arson Tuesday afternoon.

Lower than 4 months in the past, Watsonville Law enforcement officials arrested Melgoza on suspicion of setting Ave Maria Memorial Chapel on hearth, in keeping with a division submit to social media. A evaluate of superior courtroom information confirmed no associated costs filed by the Santa Cruz County District Legal professional’s Workplace towards Melgoza associated to the sooner hearth.

In a quirk of timing, Monday’s hearth got here 33 years to the day after the property confronted a previous devastating structural problem, within the type of the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

Firefighters have been referred to as Monday at 10:12 p.m. to the 721 Principal St. construction, positioned prominently on the metropolis’s northern gateway, after a passerby reported smoke issuing from the church. The Watsonville Hearth Division quickly up to date its response to a extra vital two-alarm hearth, as these arriving on the scene reported “heavy hearth involvement” on the church and {that a} pressured entry could be required to struggle the blaze. Watsonville Hearth Division Chief Tom Avila stated the second alarm, together with a bigger supportive response from neighboring hearth businesses, was referred to as as a result of church’s excessive ceilings and potential for unfold.

Structural harm to St. Patrick’s from Loma Prieta pressured church leaders to rebuild the prior 1903 English Gothic construction, bolstered to considerably modernized requirements and with metal, slightly than wood, framing and studs, Avila stated.

Stained glass windows are borded up Tuesday at St. Patrick
Stained glass home windows are borded up Tuesday at St. Patrick’s Church within the aftermath of Monday’s hearth. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel) 

“(A fireplace) is unlucky any day of the week and it’s just a little ironic that it’s on the anniversary of the earthquake,” stated Avila. “However I’ll say that when the church was rebuilt after the earthquake, it clearly wanted to satisfy these constructing and hearth codes and people new code necessities assisted in minimizing the hearth harm.”

The Watsonville Police Division estimated damages to St. Patrick’s at $100,000.

In a submit to its web site,, parish leaders described the hearth’s origin as within the construction’s wall, between the piano and the organ. Mixed impacts from flames, smoke, hearth response and a leak within the sprinkler system left the church with damages to 2 stations of the cross, the rug, a stained glass window, the roof and sure the organ console digital piano, in keeping with the church submit.

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