The Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department arrested a rural Turlock man on suspicion of attempted murder and arson after his tenants’ home burned to the ground Sunday.
Detectives believe the man set his tenants’ home on fire while they still were in it, said Deputy Royjindar Singh, a department spokesman. Singh said the three tenants escaped without injury and called for help.
Authorities identified the suspect as George Nazar, 51. He was booked at the Stanislaus County jail on suspicion of attempted murder, arson, aggravated arson and having a flammable material with the intent to maliciously use it. His bail was set at $500,000.
The fire took place at a property on the 400 block of North Verduga Road, a rural neighborhood with orchards just east of city limits. Singh said this is the same property where a deputy fatally shot a man two years ago after he exchanged gunfire with deputies.
Singh said Sunday’s incident involved a landlord-tenant dispute between Nazar and the people living in a travel trailer on his property. The trailer is about 50 feet from Nazar’s home. Details about the dispute were not available.
Singh said the people living in the trailer called authorities about 10:55 a.m. to report that Nazar had threatened to kick them out and burn down the trailer. Singh said within minutes of their call, firefighters were summoned to the property to respond to a fire.
Singh said authorities would not let firefighters onto the property to fight the blaze because Nazar would not come out of his house and they had received reports that he was armed and shots had been fired before deputies arrived. Singh said Nazar surrendered after about an hour and after talking with deputies by phone.
But the travel trailer and a nearby outbuilding were destroyed by the fire, according to 2nd Assistant Fire Chief Craig Lundquist with the Denair Fire Protection District. He said a damage estimate was not available and the cause of the fire is under investigation.
Nazar was not armed when he surrendered. Singh said detectives were in the process Sunday evening of obtaining a warrant to search Nazar’s home for firearms. He added that the report of shots being fired and a report of a methamphetamine lab on the property turned out not to be true.
Singh said the Red Cross was called to help three adults displaced by the fire.
On July 4, 2012, deputies responded to the same property when family members called for help to deal with a relative they said was armed with a handgun and threatening to kill himself. Authorities said the man shot at deputies and was fatally wounded when deputies returned fire. The man was identified as William Nazar, 43.
Singh said William and George Nazar are family members but he did not have more details. A December 2011 obituary in The Modesto Bee for Turlock resident Paul George Nazar, 80, listed a George and a William Nazar as his sons. And a July 2012 obituary for William listed a George Nazar as his brother.