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Chief: Man Set Apartment on Fire, Fled With Machete

Police have identified the man accused of setting his house on fire and fleeing with a machete as Michael William Wolfe of Redondo Beach.

Editor's Note: This article was updated at 1:15 p.m. Thursday with new information including the name of the suspect.

A Redondo Beach man who set his Esplanade apartment on fire and ran away with a machete Thursday morning was scheduled to be evicted that day, according to Division Chief Steve Hyink of the Redondo Beach Fire Department.

Officials said Michael William Wolfe, 46, was detained and arrested after an hour long search involving K-9 units and the SWAT team.

Hyink said that firefighters were initially dispatched to a blaze that started at around 7:26 a.m. in a second-story apartment at 1710 Esplanade.

At that same time, Los Angeles County Lifeguards reported a man carrying a large knife and acting strangely who was running away from the scene.

According to Hyink, the lifeguard attempted to pursue the man but the man was able to elude him.

To aid the search for the man and for firefighter safety, Hyink said Redondo Beach police set up a containment area on the Esplanade stretching from Avenue G south to Vista del Mar and east to Catalina Avenue.

Police announced over loudspeakers for residents to stay inside their homes during the search.

"They made us get off the street," said A.J. Anderson, who lives next door to the suspect and described him as a recluse. "They were going to release the dogs."

The man, later identified as Wolfe, was eventually located in the 1700 block of South Camino de la Costa.

Once detained, Wolfe, who suffered burns to his head and torso during the blaze, was transported to Torrance Memorial's burn unit under police escort, Hyink said.

Hyink said that three arson investigators are at the scene looking into how the fire started.

"The fire right now is under investigation but all indications show that it was an intentionally set fire," Hyink said. "Initial reports were ... that it was the gentleman that lived in that building that ran away form there ... There were several witnesses that saw him leave with a knife."

No other injuries were reported, and the building was completely evacuated when firefighters arrived.

"It is going to be a lengthy investigation," Hyink said.

Check back with Patch as we update this story.

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