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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Veiled Accusations Leveled at Arson Suspect Prompt Question: How Fast Can 61-Year-Old Homeless Woman Get Around Town?

Posted By on Thu, Aug 20, 2009 at 12:01 AM

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  • Whodunnit?
The San Francisco Police are quick to note that 61-year-old homeless woman and convicted arsonist Fafa Chan is not a suspect in the series of car fires that plagued the city last month. But SFPD spokeswoman Lyn Tomioka was quick to note to SF Weekly that once Chan was arrested on July 30, the fires mysteriously ceased.

It's a point the Chronicle noted yesterday -- as is the notion that this is just about the only "evidence" the cops have against Chan in the car fires.

Left unmentioned in the Chron or elsewhere was this: Glancing at the list of where the arsons occurred, they are not centrally located like, say, the string of flaming porta-potties that preceded the burning cars. If anyone believes Chan set all of these vehicle fires, he or she is making at least one of three assumptions: A woman living in bus shelters had access to a car or is rather adept on a bicycle; bus or cab service in the pre-dawn hours in San Francisco is excellent and drivers didn't notice a middle-aged homeless woman toting combustibles; or Fafa Chan is the world's fastest 61-year-old homeless woman.

A trio of fires in the predawn hours of July 28 stand out in illustrating why Chan may not be the cops' woman.

At 4 a.m. a car went up like an old Christmas tree on 48th and Geary. A scant 15 minutes later, two more cars went up at 10 Bertie Minor Lane on the Geary corridor, nearly five miles away. If you're re-enacting the chase scene in Bullitt, you might be able to drive 4.6 miles and burn two cars in 15 minutes. But even Lance Armstrong would have trouble doing that on a bike while hauling kerosine, stacks of paper and other fire-starting elements. Could a 61-year-old homeless lady careen down Geary on two wheels at 30 mph?

Hailing a cab at 48th and Geary at 4 a.m. while fleeing from a burning car is far-fetched, as is catching a bus; reports you couldn't get there on time in even an idealized world -- and it's a 33- to 41-minute schlep. 

Complicating matters, another car went up in flames that morning at 5:50 a.m. on 29th and Geary -- 3.5 miles west of Bertie Minor Lane.

In short, the allegations made against Fafa may be farfar fetchedfetched.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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