Burglary suspect 'made himself comfortable' at San Francisco firehouse 

An accused burglar snuck into a San Francisco firehouse near the Stonestown mall and made himself at home for about four hours Monday, using the station’s gym and watching television from a couch before firefighters noticed him.

Eric Miller, 29, of San Francisco, was arrested on charges of burglary and receiving stolen property after authorities say it became clear to one of the nine firefighters at Station 19 that Miller was not one of them.

Fire officials believe Miller snuck into the firehouse at 390 Buckingham Way around 2 a.m., as a fire truck left on a run.

Once inside, Miller “made himself comfortable,” fire Lt. Mindy Talmadge said. He worked out in the station’s gym and slipped on a female firefighter’s T-shirt and shorts that he found in the laundry room.

He also made a mess, pilfering through firefighters’ belongings and scattering them on the floor, Talmadge said.

When a firefighter came in to start his morning shift about four hours later, Miller was relaxed on a couch watching television, police said.

Miller said, “Hello,” and the firefighter — fooled by Miller’s department garb — also said, “Hello,” police spokesman Lt. Troy Dangerfield said.

The firefighter went upstairs, leaving Miller on the couch. He became suspicious after he returned and asked Miller “if he needed a jump,” which is firefighter lingo for covering the end of a shift, Talmadge said.

“[Miller] didn’t know what that meant,” she said.

When the firefighter asked what he was doing in the fire station, Miller said he “worked for the Army and was waiting for an emergency call,” Dangerfield said.

Firefighters detained Miller until police arrived. Police say he was in possession of a firefighter’s briefcase at the time of this arrest.

Miller appeared to be mentally unstable, Talmadge said.

It was unclear how he broke into the occupied firehouse.

In an initial police report released Tuesday, police said Miller got in through an unlocked back door. Fire officials later said he may have snuck under a closing garage door as firefighters went on a 2 a.m. run.

When firefighters returned from the run, they said they heard someone using the gym but thought it was another firefighter getting in a late-night workout, Talmadge said.

“It is bizarre,” she said. “We’ve had break-ins before, but when they’re caught they usually take off and run. He was hanging out and saying ‘Hi’ to people.”

maldax@sfexaminer.com

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