Has Outhouse Arsonist Returned? Another S.F. John Goes Up in Flames.

Categories: Crime
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In the most unwelcome comeback since, say, Bon Jovi, the person or persons lighting porta-johns ablaze may have made a return. More than two dozen porta-johns were burned into malodorous puddles of plastic in a crime wave that garnered national -- and even international -- coverage in 2008 and early '09. A toilet cleaning product company even tried to cash in on the crimewave. And now it may be starting again, with an outhouse going up at 1818 Broadway at just before 1 a.m. this morning.

The great porta-john arson wave of 2008-09 was largely focused on the Russian Hill area, but the arsonist -- or a copycat -- branched out to Potrero Hill and other city locales (though outhouse arson No. 21 was on the 2000 block of Broadway, just a short walk from this fire). San Francisco authorities didn't help their cause when, at some point, someone let it slip that torching an outhouse is not exactly a Herculean feat.

While the notion of burning outhouses may come off as extreme bathroom humor, the companies renting out porta-johns aren't laughing. One of them told SF Weekly that they lose $750 each time a restroom bursts into flames, while San Francisco police worry a toilet fire will eventually spread to a home or car, and someone could get hurt.

Whether this is a one-off or the return of the nights of flaming johns is uncertain. Only time -- and flaming outhouses -- will tell.
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