Alleged arsonist targets children's learning center in Palmdale

Leo Stallworth Image
Tuesday, May 28, 2024
Alleged arsonist targets children's learning center in Palmdale
A fire was intentionally set outside the Brain Balance learning center in Palmdale, forcing the business to close temporarily.

PALMDALE, Calif. (KABC) -- A learning center in Palmdale has been the target of criminals and, after multiple break-ins, a fire was intentionally set outside the building, forcing the business to close temporarily.

The center provides ways to help children function at a higher level in school and social situations. With the business closed parents are already seeing their children regress.

Surveillance video shows a person with a hooded jacket kneeling in the bushes as smoke rises. The person then walks away. Soon, the smoke turns to flames, which damage a business nearby.

Yomaira Gonzalez says the sheriff and fire departments alerted her that her business was threatened by fire.

"I came to the scene and my place of business was on fire," she said.

The incident happened at Brain Balance, located just east of the 14 Freeway off-ramp on Rancho Vista Boulevard, on May 19. The side of the building was damaged due to the fire. Firefighters managed to douse the flames before they reached the interior. However, the inside of the building did suffer smoke damage. There were no report of injuries.

Gonzalez says her business has been broken into before and sadly she believes it was targeted this time. She says the fire damaging her business was just one of several burning that day. Law enforcement is investigating.

"Just that same day there was two other fires within 40 minutes. Three total within 40 minutes in this area. We've always had issues with criminal activity, arson, crimes but post-pandemic it just started, it became more of an issue," said Gonzalez.

Gonzalez says she's strongly considering shutting down her business as a result of the break-ins and now this fire.

"I know we can restore our center but I'm still concerned about the safety and well-being of my students and my staff. I think that's the main thing and I really don't know if my business is going to survive," she said.

"It's sad because, my son, right now I can see the decline of him not coming to the center," said Rebecca Okongo, a Brain Balance client.

The business has been closed since the fire. Okongo says her 5-year-old son has been in the Brain Balance program for two years. Brain Balance is a drug-free program designed to help kids improve focus, behavior, social skills, anxiety and academic performance.

"Honestly I have been looking for so many services and this has been the main one that has helped my son," Okongo added.