Boystown man set his own apartment on fire Sunday morning, prosecutors say

A Lakeview man faces arson charges after he allegedly set fire to his own apartment near the intersection of Belmont and Clark this weekend. Prosecutors said Sunday morning was the second time the fire department went to Justin Manuel’s apartment to handle a fire in less than a week.

Around 8:40 a.m., a woman who lives in the building at 826 West Belmont was outside and saw smoke coming from Manuel’s third-floor apartment, Assistant State’s Attorney Loukas Kalliantasis said. She went inside, saw smoke coming from under his apartment door, and called for help, according to Kalliantasis.

Justin Manuel (inset) is accused of starting a fire in his apartment at 826 West Belmont. | CPD; Google

The woman allegedly saw Manuel come out of the building, change his shoes, and then walk away as first responders arrived. She pointed cops toward Manuel and they arrested him nearby.

Firefighters found the living room floor on fire in Manuel’s apartment, Kalliantasis said. Investigators determined that an “incendiary device” such as “open flame or available fuels” caused the fire, he said.

The fire department also went to Manuel’s apartment on April 20 to handle reports of a fire in his bedroom, according to Kalliantasis. He did not offer any details about that incident.

Assistant Public Defender Suzin Farber told Judge Barbara Dawkins, “it’s a little muddied as to what specifically happened” as she urged the judge to set an affordable bail for Manuel, who has never been arrested before.

But Dawkins countered that, if the allegations are true, Manuel put other residents of his building, residents of neighboring buildings, and firefighters at risk.

She set bail at $50,000, meaning Manuel must post $5,000 to get out of jail. Dawkins also ordered him to stay away from the apartment building.

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CWBChicago was created in 2013 by five residents of Wrigleyville and Boystown who had grown disheartened with inaccurate information that was being provided at local Community Policing (CAPS) meetings. Our coverage area has expanded since then to cover Lincoln Park, River North, The Loop, Uptown, and other North Side Areas. But our mission remains unchanged: To provide original public safety reporting with better context and greater detail than mainstream media outlets. Our editorial email address is