Man charged with setting several Flushing blazes

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A Bronx man was arrested and charged with setting 13 fires in Flushing and Murray Hill over a span of about three weeks, the FDNY said, including one blaze that destroyed a Laundromat in August and injured 19 of the city’s Bravest.

Thien Dinh, 43, of the Bronx, was cuffed and charged with multiple counts of arson, reckless endangerment and burglary, according to the city Fire Department.

“Arson is a callous crime that shows total disregard for the lives and property of those it impacts,” said Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano. “I commend our fire marshals in the Bureau of Fire Investigation for their tireless efforts to apprehend this individual whose actions have endangered the lives of New York City residents, injured many firefighters and caused a tremendous amount of property damage.”

The fires started Aug. 20 at about 12:20 a.m., when Dinh allegedly started four fires, including three along Kissena Boulevard within a span of three hours.

After the Aug. 20 incidents, Dinh allegedly lit nine more fires between that night and Sept. 13, according to the FDNY.

In each case, the FDNY said the suspected firebug lit rubbish and other combustible material to get the flames started. Dinh is no stranger to handcuffs, according to the FDNY, which said he had 45 prior arrests for many crimes, including burglary, property damage and criminal mischief.

In the early hours of Aug. 20, a three-alarm fire allegedly lit by Dinh gutted a Flushing Laundromat near the corner of 45th Avenue and 143rd Street, according to the FDNY. The blaze started on the first floor, which houses the business, and the flames were soon licking at the windows of apartments above. Residents had to climb out of windows to escape the smoke and heat.

In the aftermath, building owner Chisei Han was devastated, but happy that no one was killed.

Han is a hardworking Taiwanese immigrant who toiled in kitchens and restaurants for years in order to save enough money to buy the Laundromat and the apartments above it in the 1990s, he said, renting them out to tenants who stayed there for decades.

He even managed to send two daughters to college by running the business and planned to retire in two years, although he is uncertain he will be able to pay for the remainder of their education after the blaze.

“Right before my perfect ending,” he said standing outside of the charred skeleton of his business, clutching his dog Mu Qi, who survived the inferno by hiding behind a stove in Han’s apartment on the second floor.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 5:26 pm, September 26, 2012
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