Fire, first considered arson, destroys artist association property

Fire crews work to contain a blaze inside multiple storage units on the 26200 block of Hollywood Court Monday night. Cory Rubin/The Signal

Local sheriff’s deputies detained a 52-year-old Saugus man suspected of starting a fire that gutted a handful of storage units Monday, but later released him with no charges pending.

After detaining the suspect, a detective assigned to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Arson/Explosives Detail deemed the fire “non-criminal,” ruling out arson as a cause, Shirley Miller, spokeswoman for the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, said Tuesday.

The fire at Extra Storage at the end of Hollywood Way off of Cinema Drive proved extensive, however, destroying equipment owned by the Santa Clarita Valley Artists Association that was stored in one of the units.

“We lost a whole lot of lighting and panels,” said Patty Koscheski, whose husband Ted is an association board member.

“We’re going to need corporate sponsors to help us replenish all of what we lost,” she said.

The association is a nonprofit that has remained a fixture in Santa Clarita since 1989, offering “free art for community,”  Koscheski said.

Some association members were at the storage unit Tuesday afternoon, picking through the charred rubble.

Deputies with the SCV Sheriff’s Station, meanwhile, continue to investigate what they believe was a purposely set fire.

Fire at the storage facility was first reported at about 6:50 p.m. Monday, and the blaze quickly spread through the facility, gutting five storage units, Fire Department spokesman Michael Pittman said.

At 9 p.m., deputies arrested a 52-year-old unemployed Saugus man on suspicion of arson of a structure or forest land — a felony — but later dropped the charge and released the man, Miller said.

The mission of the Santa Clarita Artists Association, according to member Zony Gordon, is:  “To promote art in the Santa Clarita Valley by ‘making visual art visible.’ Our community outreach programs help with this endeavor, and are always educational, child-friendly and free to the general public,” said Gordon.

Koscheski said the association needs the burned property replaced in order to continue with its scholarship program.

The association awards scholarships to art students, from high school to college, in Santa Clarita.

The SCAA gallery is located at 22508 6th St. in Newhall (just off Main Street beside the public parking lot near the Canyon Theatre Guild.) It is generally open Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In addition, members display and sell art at many venues throughout the city of Santa Clarita.

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