PITTSBURG (CBS SF) – A Pittsburg man has been arrested and charged with felony arson for allegedly setting more than 50 fires in eastern Contra Costa County over the past two years, authorities said.

Police arrested 53-year-old Thomas Hartman on Dec. 15 after a lengthy investigation indicated that he lit fires at seven shopping centers in Pittsburg, Antioch and Bay Point since January 2010, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District officials said.

He now faces felony arson charges in Contra Costa County Superior Court, according to the district attorney’s office.

Fire district officials said today that Hartman is believed to have started fires in Dumpsters behind the retail centers between January 2010 and Dec. 3 of this year.

Investigators used surveillance footage and other evidence to link Hartman to the arsons, and were assisted by Antioch and Pittsburg police, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

Fire officials estimate that the fires have caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage to the Dumpsters and to nearby buildings’ exterior walls.

No one was injured in any of the fires.

The fire district advises storeowners to keep Dumpsters locked, away from buildings and stowed in well-lit areas.

Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the fire district’s arson tip line at (866) 502-7766.

Hartman is scheduled to return to court to enter a plea on Dec. 29.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)



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