1 month after release, Riverside arson convict again accused of setting fires


Almost one month to the day after George Alexander Hill was released from jail after pleading guilty to setting two destructive fires in Riverside, he was back behind bars facing more arson charges.

The Riverside Fire Department arrested Hill, 39, on Tuesday, May 22, and he wrote out a confession to setting several small fires, said Capt. Ray Mendoza, the department’s lead arson investigator.

Hill was being held without bail at Robert Presley Detention Center in Riverside on suspicion of two counts of arson of property. He had not been charged as of Wednesday.

Hill was in custody for 1 year and 4 months when he was sentenced to 2 years and 8 months on a conviction of arson of property on April 23 as part of a plea bargain. He admitted setting a fire on Dec. 18, 2022, at Big T Toys and Sports on Park View Court, a company that sells toys to carnivals and theme parks to be handed out as prizes. The loss was estimated at $1.5 million.

In exchange for the plea, a charge of arson of a structure was dropped. That had been filed in connection with a fire that damaged a Walmart on Van Buren Boulevard on Oct. 23, 2022.

Hill was released from custody after the sentencing. Defendants are typically given credit for time served that by law is double the amount of time they had been incarcerated.

The Riverside Fire Department said George Alexander Hill, 39, set fire to a woman’s belongings in two shopping carts on May 19, 2024, and confessed to the crime. Hill has a previous arson conviction. (Courtesy of Riverside Fire Department)

It wasn’t long before fire investigators began hearing Hill’s name again.

On May 19, 2024, firefighters extinguished a blaze that enveloped two shopping carts that held a woman’s belongings and damaged the outside of a Riverside Public Utilities electrical box in the Arlanza neighborhood.

“During follow-up, investigators received leads indicating that a former arson arrestee was possibly connected,” said Mendoza, who identified that person in an interview Wednesday as Hill.

Investigators also learned of other fires in homeless encampments in the county area of the Santa Ana River that witnesses blamed on Hill, Mendoza said. Investigators located Hill on Van Buren Boulevard, questioned him and arrested him.

“Mr. Hill admitted to intentionally lighting the shopping cards on fire,” Mendoza said. “Mr. Hill indicated his motive was out of revenge toward a female individual.”

Arson of property is a felony that can result of a state prison sentence of up to three years. It will be up to the District Attorney’s Office to determine what punishment is sought for Hill if he is convicted.

Of 1,679 reported fires in Riverside in 2023, 74 were officially classified as arson, Mendoza said. But many fires that could have been arson have not yet been fully investigated, he said.

It’s a crime that is vexing investigators and law enforcement officers in the city.

“Arson is a very easy crime to commit for the simple fact that most people need nothing more than a lighter to commit the crime,” Mendoza said.

The Fire Department is stepping up its efforts to investigate arson.

Currently, most of its arson investigators are working on engine crews and may not immediately be available to examine a fire’s origins if they are on a different call. But starting July 1, the department’s budget will include a firefighter working a 24-hour shift seven days a week whose only duty is to investigate fires, Mendoza said.

“The Fire Department is trying to take a better grasp of these intentionally-set fires and trying to provide better public safety for the community,” Mendoza said.


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