Man says stranger set his home on fire, then watched it burn

PHOENIX (KNXV/CNN) – A Phoenix homeowner is thankful a witness woke him up in the middle of the night when his house caught on fire.

Then, the homeowner said he was shocked to find out someone set it ablaze on purpose, then watched it burn from the yard.

Surveillance video from the home appears to show someone setting fire to the house and walking away.

A neighbor, 20-year-old Jack White, said he rushed right over early Saturday morning when he saw smoke.

Rafael Moreno, the homeowner, said he and his roommates were sleeping inside when the fire started.

"Imagine if that person wouldn't have knocked? We probably would've died," he said.

Moreno and his roommates got out, then focused on putting out the fire.

After the suspect, 42-year-old Jacob Espinoza, allegedly lit the home on fire, he crept behind some bricks and hid, Moreno said.

Moreno said Espinoza pepper-sprayed him in the eyes when he found him hiding. Espinoza then took off running. Moreno’s friends caught him and pinned him.

"Then we tied his hands and his legs until police arrived," Moreno said.

Police arrested Espinoza and booked him on charges of aggravated assault, arson, burglary and six counts of endangerment.

Espinoza told detectives “he was scared and that he does not remember lighting the house on fire,” according to court documents.

Detectives wrote in their report that they found a pepper spray can, a red gas can and a green lighter, which were impounded for evidence.

Moreno said he didn’t know Espinoza, and that he’s devastated by what he’s accused of doing.

"I've been struggling to pay off my house,” Moreno said. “I've been working non-stop for the little bit that I have."

Moreno, a construction worker, said he lost at least $10,000 worth of tools in the fire, in addition to the damage to his home.

He’ll now spend his free time working on his own home.

He said he hopes Espinoza spends years in prison.

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