Rob Varela / The Ventura County Star via AP

California Planned Parenthood site attacked by arsonist

Fire at the facility occurs amid political backlash against the reproductive health provider

A small fire that damaged a Planned Parenthood facility in southern California was apparently ignited when someone tossed a container with a flammable liquid through a window, authorities said. Officials said they are treating the incident as an arson case.

Crews reported the smell of gasoline at the scene of the arson late Wednesday in Thousand Oaks, said Ventura County Fire Capt. Mike Lindbery. Nobody was inside the building when the fire was started.

A suspect wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a face mask was recorded by surveillance cameras, said Sheriff's Capt. John Reilly.

"The footage is really poor. It's very dark, but the cameras did capture someone," he said.

Arson investigators were examining the footage and will test the liquid accelerant.

The organization has faced criticism and congressional backlash for its practice of supplying tissue from aborted fetuses for scientific research. In the face of that pressure, the nonprofit has paid extra care to its security nationwide said executive vice president of health care Kim Custer in a statement.

"Due to the recent campaign of false attacks against Planned Parenthood, we have increased security measures over the last couple of months to ensure that both our patients and staff continue to be completely safe," Custer said.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said in a statement she was grateful that no one was hurt in the Thousand Oaks incident, which she linked to the current criticism.

"The toxic rhetoric directed at Planned Parenthood has dangerous consequences," she said. "It sends a signal that using violence to close clinics and intimidate health care professionals and women is 'ok'. It is not."

Crews alerted by a fire alarm at about 11:30 p.m. arrived to find that the building's sprinklers had extinguished most of the flames. A rock was apparently used to shatter the window before the container was tossed inside, Lindbery said.

There was more damage from the sprinklers than from the fire itself, officials said.

The office was vandalized within the last 30 days, when another window was broken, but it wasn't immediately known whether the two incidents were connected, Reilly said.

Al Jazeera and Associated Press


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