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Laura Walker and her 13-year-old son were awakened late one night by a neighborhood man pounding on her front door.
The vacant house next to theirs in the 200 block of Eastern Avenue was on fire.
The man who alerted the Walkers, Allen Quintanilla, 18, confessed Monday to setting that house on fire as well as eight others in Toledo's Old South End, police said.
"I would stay up and watch," said Ms. Walker, who had trouble sleeping after the fire at the house next door at 201 Eastern Ave.
"I was afraid they were going do it again. That really scared me."
Mr. Quintanilla will be arraigned today in Toledo Municipal Court on nine counts of breaking and entering and one count of criminal trespassing.
Arson charges are pending. Mr. Quintanilla has no juvenile criminal record.
He was being held without bond in the Lucas County jail.
A warrant was issued for Mr. Quintanilla Sunday after he was seen sifting through the rubble of a burned house at 404 Western Ave. He was arrested about 1:40 a.m. yesterday near Western and Sumner Street, police said.
Detective Shelli Kilburn said Mr. Quintanilla heard police and fire sirens responding to a domestic argument and went outside to investigate.
An officer checked him for warrants.
While being taken into custody, Mr. Quintanilla told the officers: "I'm watching the fire truck. I'm not doing anything wrong," according to a police report.
He then asked: "Is this about the fires?"
During questioning, Detective Kilburn said Mr. Quintanilla confessed to setting the vacant house fires apparently as a result of his interest in police and firefighters.
He stayed at the scene of most of the blazes to watch the houses burn, Detective Kilburn said.
"He's fascinated by cops and fireman," she said. "He wants to be one of us."
The vacant houses set on fire were at 1113 Broadway St.; 411 Courtland Ave.; 201 Eastern Ave.; 329 Western Ave.; 1113 Western Ave.; 239 Sumner St.; 258 Wasaon St.; 404 Western Ave, and 523 Knower St.
The fires were set between Feb. 14 and Saturday.
They typically occurred between 11 p.m. and 5:30 a.m., said Fire Investigator Dale Pelz.
The house at 239 Sumner, which can be seen from Ms. Walker's house, was destroyed by a two-alarm fire about 3 a.m. Tuesday and heavily damaged two neighboring homes.
Rubble of the demolished house remained yesterday.
A firefighter was injured during a fire two days later at a vacant building at 404 Western.
Annie Juan lives across from 411 Courtland Ave., which was set ablaze Feb. 26.
Windows are now boarded up and covered in graffiti.
Ms. Juan said that prior to the arrest, she was fearful the vacant, boarded-up house next to hers would be targeted.
Capt. Ray Carroll said Mr. Quintanilla is fortunate no one was seriously injured or killed in the fires.
"He could have easily killed somebody," Captain Carroll said.
"There could have been somebody in those abandoned houses sleeping," he said.
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