Woman suspected of arson in Chula Vista fires

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CHULA VISTA, Calif. — A suspected South Bay serial arsonist was arrested Friday morning, shortly after she allegedly set three small blazes in quick succession.

Officers took 54-year-old Shirley Anne Gentry into custody about 6 a.m. in the 300 block of Broadway in Chula Vista, near where the spate of fires had just erupted, burning patches of brush and the contents of a trash can, according to police.

Gentry — who appeared to try to hide a cigarette lighter when contacted — already had been a suspect in at least five previous arson fires in Chula Vista dating back to last fall, officials said.

The first of those blazes engulfed a shed near a church in the 600 block of G Street on Thanksgiving Day. Witnesses described seeing Gentry in the area, dancing in the street as the structure burned.

Last month, surveillance cameras captured images of Gentry in the area of two fires at a Salvation Army donation center in the 300 block of Broadway. The July 12 and July 27 blazes destroyed a mattress and a couch, respectively. On the earlier date, Gentry also allegedly threatened to burn down a woman’s house during an argument.

Officers took her to a county mental-health clinic following that incident.

On July 28, after a restaurant owner objected to Gentry bathing in a restroom at the eatery, a door at the business was set on fire, according to police.

One week later, a commercial trash bin at an Arco station in the 700 block of E Street was set ablaze after employees there confronted Gentry about allegedly shoplifting food and asked her to leave.

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