The Petty Archives

Inspectors say fire at Petty's home was arson
By Traci Romine
The Lewiston Journal - May 20, 1987

ENCINO, Calif. -- Los Angeles fire inspectors said Monday that an arsonist set the fire that caused $1 million damage to rock singer Tom Petty's ranch-style home in Encino.

Someone poured a flammable liquid on a rear wooden staircase outside the home and lit the fire early Sunday, said Capt. William Zaring of the Los Angeles City Fire Department Arson Investigation unit.

Arson investigators have no suspects nor witnesses to the fire, Zaring said. Investigators interviewed Petty and his wife, Jane, Sunday, and neither had any clues leading to a motive, he said. Lab tests are scheduled this week to determine what liquid was used to ignite the blaze, he said.

Petty, guitar player and lead singer of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, had received no threatening letters or phone calls, said Petty's publicist Mitchell Schneider, of Michael Levine Public Relations in Los Angeles.

The fire started as Petty, his wife and 5-year-old daughter were eating breakfast. They smelled he fire and escaped the house uninjured, Schneider said. A housekeeper suffered minor injuries and singed hair. She was treated at the house, fire fighters said.

"Tom's shaken, but he is fine," Schneider said. "It's literally hours after a tragedy, so no announcements have been made" about Petty's plan for the home, at 4626 N. Encino Ave., he said.

The Pettys are staying with friends in Los Angeles. Petty is getting new clothes together so that he can start a nationwide tour next week, Schneider said.

"He lost everything," Schneider said.

The fire, fueled by the wood-shingled roof on the home, nearly gutted the top floor of the home. It caused an estimated $400,000 damage to the structure and $600,000 to its contents, Zaring said.

The only area untouched by the flames was Petty's basement recording studio.