(KMOV) -- An alleged arsonist is behind bars after investigators in the Metro East said he tried to burn down a house with five people sleeping inside.
A police officer just happened to be in the area about 3:30 in the morning on December 29, when he noticed the smoke on a house on 45th street in Fairmont City. He banged down the doors. Five people sleeping inside had no idea their house was on fire.
"We could be dead right now if that cop didn't cross the street right here,” said Rosalia Garcia who was inside the home at the time.
Garcia and four other people were inside the home, not knowing their lives were danger.
“It was scary, the first time. They were saying get out of the house, because it's on fire,” Garcia said.
The fire began on the ground in the back on the home.
There are no electrical or gas lines nearby and investigators told them it was clear: someone set this fire on purpose.
Why would they do this to us, they've never done nothing to them, nothing.
Tuesday, prosecutors charged Yovani Moreno-Gachuz with aggravated arson. They could release few details, but Garcia told us it appeared he was angry with someone over a woman.
"I don't know why he did it, he was kind of mad at my brother in law,” Garcia said.
But according to court documents, Moreno-Gachuz is an illegal immigrant. He's now been placed on a federal hold and there's a chance he'll get deported before ever facing local charges.
But on New Year’s Eve, Garcia says she's just glad everyone here is alive.
"It’s a good thing nothing happened to us, it's a really good thing,” Garcia said.
All of the damage confined to the outside of the home, in part because of the quick thinking of that police officer on the scene. That family tells me they are feeling much safer knowing that suspect is off the streets tonight.