Meet the two vagrant firebugs helping turn NYC subways into a nightmare for straphangers

NYC subway firebugs
NYC subway firebugs

A pair of vagrant firebugs have become the latest symbols of the chaos unfolding in the Big Apple subway system, with straphangers now forced to look over their shoulders when they hop the train.

Shocking surveillance footage captured one crazed nut hurling two flaming soup cans at a group of subway riders at a Manhattan subway station on Feb. 5 — with the unknown arsonist still on the loose.

Then, earlier this month, cops said a 49-year-old career criminal with a history of emotional disturbances was charged with setting a garbage bag on fire on a subway car at the 125th Street station.

Israel Montero of the Bronx, who police say even burned his own shoes in the subway blaze on March 3, already had dozens of arrests on his rap sheet — including nine last year — and was sought on warrants for blowing off court dates in the Bronx and Manhattan earlier this month.

“No amount of cops in the transit system can fix a disordered mind,” one law enforcement source told The Post on Thursday. “A serial thief we can arrest — but when a guy sets a train on fire it’s a symptom of something beyond us alone.

“This guy has been in contact with the system over a hundred times through various points of his life and our tools are exhausted,” the source said.

According to police, an MTA conductor on the 2 and 3 train-line flagged down cops shortly after 8:30 a.m. on March 3 and told them that there was smoke coming from one of the cars.

Surveillance video footage captured a hooded man holding two flaming soup cans at the West 28th Street subway station on Feb. 5. DCPI
Surveillance video footage captured a hooded man holding two flaming soup cans at the West 28th Street subway station on Feb. 5. DCPI

When police went into the car they allegedly saw Montero next to a burned garbage bag, with fire damage to the subway car and even the vagrant’s boots, sources said. Authorities found Montero had a cigarette lighter and burnt plastic, according to the sources.

He was arrested and charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.

Cops have not caught up with the deranged firebug who was caught on video throwing the flaming cans.

Israel Montero was charged for setting a garbage bag on fire in a subway car.
Israel Montero was charged for setting a garbage bag on fire in a subway car.

Sources said the suspect in that case was being harassed by a group of youngsters who were “messing” with him when he grabbed the cans filled with flammable liquid and set them on fire — then threw them at the victims.

The encounter took place around 7:40 p.m. at the West 28th Street station on Feb. 5.

No one was hurt, cops said.

The unidentified vagrant screams and hurls the flaming soup cans at a group of straphangers before running off. DCPI
The unidentified vagrant screams and hurls the flaming soup cans at a group of straphangers before running off. DCPI

The two shocking incidents come as concern over transit crime has reached a fever pitch in the five boroughs.

Earlier this month, Gov. Kathy Hochul ordered hundreds of National Guard troops and state troopers into the Big Apple subways in an attempt to alleviate the fears plaguing the system.

“My No. 1 priority as the governor of the state of New York is to keep people safe,” Hochul told reporters on March 8.

Police said a career criminal with a history of emotional disturbance set a fire aboard a subway train at the 125th Street station on March 3. Paul Martinka
Police said a career criminal with a history of emotional disturbance set a fire aboard a subway train at the 125th Street station on March 3. Paul Martinka
Concerns over crime and disorderly conduct on the subways prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul to deploy hundreds of state troopers and National Guard troops to the transit system. James Messerschmidt
Concerns over crime and disorderly conduct on the subways prompted Gov. Kathy Hochul to deploy hundreds of state troopers and National Guard troops to the transit system. James Messerschmidt

“When you have that high level of anxiety, now you’re dealing with the psychological toll that deters people from wanting to go on the subway,” she added.

Additional reporting by Tina Moore and Steven Vago