HANFORD, California (KSEE/KGPE) — Hanford Police officers arrested a woman who allegedly started a fire at the Taoist Temple that damaged “irreplaceable artifacts” in May according to detectives.
The fire was reported on May 12 at approximately 10:28 pm. Hanford police detectives responded to 1 China Alley at the Taoist Temple to assist fire crews with the fire which they believed to be arson.
Detectives say they were able to obtain video surveillance showing a woman sitting on the steps of the building. Investigators say the woman appeared to be smoking. The video then shows the woman as she sets nearby clothing on fire, police say.
Police believe the suspect was a transient. With the help from officers assigned to the Homeless Assistance and Resource Team, detectives spoke with transients that frequent the area and were able to identify the suspect as Maxine Montenegro, 37. Detectives located Montenegro, who now faces felony arson charges.
Detectives spoke with Arianne Wing, President of the China Alley Preservation Society who said many of the items that were damaged are priceless and irreplaceable artifacts. The fire caused extensive damage to the Temple, currently estimated at over $500,000.