Police search for Selden tanning salon arsonist

NJ Burkett reports live from Selden, Long Island
December 30, 2013 3:04:17 PM PST
Police on Long Island are searching for the arsonist who burned a tanning salon on Christmas Day.

Surveillance cameras recorded the fire at the "Sky Tan" Salon in Selden.

"This was my Christmas present," said Gene Cella, the salon's co-owner.

Gene Cella says it's outrageous. In the surveillance video, the arsonist is dressed in black and smashes in the glass door with what looks like an axe.

"He poured the gasoline on here to make himself like a trail out the door like a fuse," Cella said.

Seconds later, the suspect is seen as he crouches down, lights a match, and nearly blows himself-up as the tanning salon erupts in a huge fireball.

"Took us 15 years to build to build the shop, me and my partner, and it was gone in two minutes. And the sad part is he took away 25 jobs because he also got the bagel store," Cella said.

Gene opened the salon barely one month ago. Since then, he claims he's been threatened by other salon owners. Arson investigators refused to speculate on a motive, but Gene says he has no doubt.

"It's definitely somebody within the tanning community," Cella said.

"You're convinced of that?" Eyewitness News asked.

"Of course, who would pick on a tanning salon on Christmas and blow it up?" Cella said.

Regardless of the motive, it took dozens of firefighters to put the fire out. Volunteers were forced out of their beds and away from their families at 4 a.m. on Christmas morning.

"We're neighbors helping neighbors; they're volunteer people helping their community people. With something like this, an intentional fire, they're risking life, and God forbid something happened to one of these members, and then I have to go home on Christmas morning and tell the family that they're not coming home. People don't realize that," said Chief Joe Leavens, Selden Volunteer Fire Department.