Bay Area/ San Francisco
Published on January 03, 2015
Divisadero Porta-Potty Arson The Work Of Repeat Toilet Torcher?Photo: Dave Schumaker/Flickr
A portable toilet was set ablaze on Thursday, January 1st at 12:30pm on Divisadero, between Ellis and O’Farrell. Officers responded to the scene at the request of the SFFD, who ruled the fire an arson. There were no arrests made, and there is no description of the suspect. (An unrelated porta-potty's misfortunes are pictured above.)
These fecal flames, however, raise a larger question: could the infamous “toilet torcher” be at it again? In case you are unfamiliar with his or her work, the moniker refers to the modern-day Willie Sutton of porta-potty arson. Between late 2008 and fall 2009, 27 portable toilets were set on fire across San Francisco. For a moment, the police believed the culprit to be a then 62-year-old homeless woman named Fafa Chan, but she was never convicted after being brought into custody. To this day, no arrests have been made in connection to the crimes.
Then, in 2012, a string of similar fires occurred in the Richmond District, Noe Valley, and Lake Merced. However, the perpetrator(s) were never caught. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the fires could have been the work of a copycat, or just some old fashioned ne’er-do-wells from the neighborhood.
Which brings us to the action on Divisadero this past Thursday, which at this point remains a mystery. “We searched the area for any video surveillance, but weren’t able to find any,” said SFPD officer Albie Esparza. “If anyone from the area has any private video surveillance footage, we urge them to contact the police.” He also told us they have not made any connection to the previously torched portable toilets.
One can only imagine the motive behind this very specific brand of arson. Perhaps the culprit isn’t so different from Willie Sutton himself, and if asked why he set fire to so many portapotties, (s)he’d simply reply: “Because that’s where the shit is.”
If you have any information regarding the fire, you can contact the SFPD anonymous tip line at (415) 575–4444 or you can call the Park Station directly at (415) 242-3000.