Denver firefighters put out a car fire near the Wellington E. Webb Building on Nov. 7, 2013.
Denver firefighters put out a car fire near the Wellington E. Webb Building on Nov. 7, 2013. (RJ Sangosti, The Denver Post)

A woman drove a car onto the sidewalk outside a Denver building Thursday, set the vehicle on fire and then watched it burn, witnesses said.

The woman, identified as 39-year-old Anastasia Gordeeva, was arrested for investigation of second-degree arson, the Denver district attorney's office said.

She is accused of setting a car on fire outside the Wellington E. Webb Municipal Office Building, 201 W. Colfax Ave., which houses the DA's office.

The incident happened shortly after noon, as dozens of people looked on.

When the car came to a stop, the driver threw something onto the back seat, paused for a moment, got out of the vehicle and briefly entered the Webb building, witness Jessica Woods recalled.

Woods, 28, and her husband, Craig, 31, were outside the building as the incident unfolded.

"She walked into the building and then walked out and stood with us and watched (the car) burn," Woods said. "You could see flames shooting up in the back seat."

Another witness, Rody Salas, 35, was driving by and had stopped for a red light.

"I saw her pull onto the sidewalk and swerve back and forth," Salas said. "She got out of the car and very calmly started walking to the main entrance of the building. I noticed the smoke, and the smoke turned into flames.

"I thought: 'What the heck?' "

Meanwhile, on the sidewalk in front of the building, Craig Woods dialed 911 and witnesses near the car backed away to a safe distance.

The suspect told the Woodses she was a homeless immigrant. She said she was being abused by her husband and had reported it but was not receiving help.

"People were talking to her. She was answering questions," said Jessica Woods, adding she didn't feel directly threatened by the woman.

The suspect told people she was angry and frustrated.

Denver police and firefighters arrived.

Firefighters worked on putting out the blaze, and police interviewed witnesses, Woods said.

Witnesses pointed out the driver to police, who handcuffed her and took her into custody without further incident.

"She knew she was going to jail," Woods said. "She was very calm about it."

Woods described the woman as middle-aged and having an Eastern European accent. Also, she appeared disheveled.

"She looked like she hadn't had a shower in a few days," Woods said.

Woods said the woman told her that the car, a late-model Chevrolet Cruze with Texas license plates, was a rental.

No one was injured in the incident.

The blazing car emitted heavy, black smoke for about 10 minutes before being extinguished by firefighters.

Mark Watson, a Denver Fire Department spokesman, said investigators will use images from security cameras as part of an arson investigation.

The Woodses just moved to Colorado from out of state, and it was their first day in Denver.

"Welcome to Denver, right?" Jessica Woods said. "It's just one of those things — it could happen anywhere."