Edited by Alex Constantine
Shock, Awe & Arson in Paradise
Report: Arson Investigator Started SoCal Fires
Nov 22, 2008
LOS ANGELES and SAN BERNARDINO (CBS) ― A U.S. Forest Service arson investigator, who is currently in jail for allegedly threatening public officials, was also viewed as a possible "firefighter arsonist" for dozens of suspicious blazes in Riverside, San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties, it was reported Saturday.
Court records show that a rash of arsons that hit the mountains north of Santa Clarita ended when a federal arson investigator was transferred out of the area, and that arson investigator is now in jail on charges he threatened California Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Mary Bono Mack, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported Saturday.
Michael Karl McNeil, 35, has also been linked to a string of arsons that cropped up near Beaumont after he was transferred there.
A U.S. Forest Service special agent's report on McNeil is being used as evidence by an attorney defending another man on murder and arson charges from the 2006 Esperanza fire, that killed five firefighters near Idyllwild. Raymond Lee Oyler, 35, could get the death penalty.
The attorney told the newspaper that the string of arsons now being linked to the disgraced federal arson investigator casts doubt on the case against Oyler.
The secret report, written by a Forest Service special agent, says an unprecedented rash of 37 arsons broke out when McNeil was assigned to the Saugus Ranger District at Oak Flat Station in the Angeles National Forest in 2001.
"While McNeil was a firefighter ... McNeil lived in Palmdale and the 37 arson fires occurred along various routes between Oak Flat Station and Palmdale," the report states. "After McNeil left the Saugus Ranger District (in 2003 and 2004), no arson fires occurred," according to the report, as
quoted by the Press-Enterprise.
Local firefighters suspected the federal arson investigator had actually set the blazes, but could not prove it, the report said.
The confidential report portrays a man with a checkered past whose claims to be an arson investigator and firefighter were doubted by professionals around him, according to the Press-Enterprise.
McNeil started as a volunteer firefighter in Utah in 1996 and was later fired, according to the report. On three or four occasions, he reported wildland fires, was first on the scene, and found an arson device, and after the last such incident he was confronted, questioned and dismissed, according to the Press-Enterprise.
From June 2005 to July 2007 McNeil worked as a fire prevention technician for the San Bernardino National Forest in the San Jacinto Ranger District, assigned to the Banning Pass Fire Station, according to the report.
The number of arsons in that area jumped after McNeil arrived.
During his assignment there, Forest Service officials became suspicious of McNeil's background, his claims of experience as an arson investigator, and the coincidence of his arrival and the increase of arson fires, according to the Press-Enterprise.
The newspaper reported that a CalFire enforcement officer had spotted McNeil stopped in his official car, near an arson-set fire, as firefighters rushed to a blaze in Whitewater Canyon in Palm Springs. Other officers reported that McNeil often was the first person to arrive at arsons, often beating the nearest fire trucks to the crimes.
McNeil was being held on a 36-count arson and terrorist threat complaint on $2.88 million bail at the Twin Towers Correctional Facility. His next next court date is Dec. 4 at the Alhambra Courthouse, 150 W. Commonwealth Ave., Alhambra. There is also a hold for McNeil from Lassen County in Northern California, according to sheriff's records.
Suspected arsonist arrested in Malibu
The Associated Press
MALIBU, Calif.—Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies have arrested a 39-year-old man suspected of starting a fire near Malibu Creek State Park.
Sheriff's deputy Byron Ward said Suren Sahakyan was taken into custody around 5 p.m. Saturday by deputies responding to a call that someone had started a fire on the shoulder of a road. A witness who reported seeing the incident quickly put out the fire.
Ward said Sahakyan was arrested not far from where the fire was ignited. He was booked for investigation of arson and held on $75,000 bail.
Investigators: Santa Barbara-area fire human caused
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Investigators say the fire that destroyed more than 200 homes in Santa Barbara and Montecito was "human caused."
Doug Lannon, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said Sunday that investigators have eliminated all accidental causes of the fire.
The fire began Thusday night in a Montecito landmark called the Tea House. Lannon said the area is a popular hangout for teenagers, and it's possible someone was smoking in the brush or started a campfire there.
Investigators have not ruled out arson as a possible cause. They've set up an anonymous tip line in hopes of getting the public's help in finding out what happened.
The fire burned 1,940 acres and is 80 percent contained.
The Camp Pendleton Fire
OCEANSIDE: Juliett fire is subject of criminal investigation
Earlier fire also under scrutiny
October 16, 2008
OCEANSIDE ---- The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and two other agencies are investigating the cause of the 4,000-acre Juliett fire ignited Monday on Camp Pendleton, base officials said Thursday.
The probe suggests that arson is suspected, but a Camp Pendleton spokeswoman said she had no information about why a criminal investigation was opened. Arson is punishable under state and federal law, as well as the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which applies to members of the armed services.
The San Diego County Sheriff's Department and California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection are also investigating the Juliett fire, officials said. ...
The fire was the largest of at least three fires to break out on base in a seven-day period.
On Oct. 8, a blaze now being called the November fire burned 1,500 acres on the southern portion of the base bordering Oceanside. That fire is also under investigation by the agencies reviewing the Juliett fire, Marine officials said Thursday. ...
Bonita Canyon: Officials suspect arson in blaze
Fire officials working with police to determine cause of Bonita Canyon flames. Fallen power lines likely not the culprit, they say.
By Joseph Serna
October 21, 2008 9:46 PM PDT
A wildfire that damaged two homes and forced hundreds of Newport Beach residents to evacuate their homes last week was most likely deliberately set, fire officials said Tuesday.
“We’re pretty certain it was set. Fire investigators are working with the police department,” Newport Beach Fire Marshal Steve Bunting said. “The area [where the fire started] was gated off and closed to the public.”
About 3:20 p.m. Oct. 13, a fire started in Bonita Canyon’s brush and quickly spread, thanks to gusty Santa Ana winds kicking up that day. ... The blaze scorched 10 acres of land and lightly damaged two homes. ...
Arson probed in fire at Point Mugu State Park
By Kathleen Wilson (Contact)
Thursday, October 16, 2008
... The blaze in La Jolla Canyon east of Naval Base Ventura County at Point Mugu was reported shortly before 8 a.m. By noon, firefighters had it largely under control, no more smoke or fire was visible, and the California Highway Patrol had reopened the highway. ...
Authorities were looking at whether arson was involved and were searching for a transient reported to be living in or near the park. The fire was believed to have started at a trailhead north of a group campground, which was not being used at the time, park rangers said. ...
Sanchez said the fire also potentially posed a threat to radio towers at Laguna Peak, where Navy and commercial communications facilities are situated. Schuett said firefighters made a good stand on the ground at the bottom of La Jolla Canyon. "If it had crossed that canyon, it would have been off to the races," he said.
At Least Two Deaths Blamed on California Wildfires
October 13, 2008 at 10:44pm
Folks who live in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles could be in for a very long night. Two fires have forced thousands to evacuate, and crews admit, they have little control of the flames. At least two deaths are being blamed on wildfires. Thousands of L-A residents raced from two fires that threaten their San Fernando neighborhoods. ... Among those killed was a woman killed in a head-on collision on a freeway blanketed in smoke. Investigators think one of the fires was arson, making this a crime scene.
MEANWHILE, IN MAREK, CA:
SCHWARZENEGGER DECLARES STATE OF EMERGENCY
" ... the former Terminator star revealed 64 homes had been destroyed by the blazes and there had been one fatality in the Marek, California fire. ... "
'Marek' Fire Has Now Burned Over 3,700 Acres
12 Oct 2008
High winds caused the so-called Marek fire to burgeon to 3,700 acres today and reduced containment from 20 to 5 percent, prompting authorities to close schools and long stretches of freeway and increase the area subject to mandatory evacuations. ...
The cause of the fire was still under investigation, but arson investigators told reporters at the scene they found something suspicious near the ignition point. No details were immediately released.
Do your part to prevent fires
... Report suspicious activity to your local police department or sheriff's station. Hikers, mountain bikers, birders or trail walkers should tell a ranger if he sees a barbecue or campfire - they are illegal during red flag warnings. A homeless person should not be allowed to bed down in the hills or the forest during high fire warnings. They often light campfires and inadvertently start wildfires. Or, they can become victims themselves, as was the case in the Marek Fire near Lakeview Terrace, in which a homeless man and his dog burned to death in a makeshift shelter.
That fire began near a shooting range in Little Tujunga Canyon in the Angeles. Arson investigators are saying they found something suspicious near the ignition point but have not released their findings, according to City News Service. ...
CAPAY VALLEY: Volunteer Firefighter Convicted of Arson in October, 2008
Serial Arsonist Firefighter, Capay Valley
Fire-making materials linked to firefighter
By Hudson Sangree
August 23, 2008/OUR REGION section, Page B4
Yolo County prosecutors Friday revealed key aspects of their case against a volunteer firefighter accused of setting wildfires in the rural Capay Valley.
Robert Eric Eason, 39, from the hamlet of Guinda, sat beside his lawyer in Yolo Superior Court as investigators with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection testified about years of effort to catch the suspected serial arsonist. Cal Fire Deputy Chief Alan Carlson said a search of Eason's home in October 2006 yielded materials for making time-delay incendiary devices from mosquito coils, spirals of a claylike substance that smolder for hours.
Carlson said experiments showed the coils could be hurled from speeding cars and would fly "like a Frisbee" into tinder-dry grass.
An investigator of hundreds of fires, Carlson said he had never seen the coils used before. No coils were found at the sites of the 16 fires Eason is charged with setting in 2005 and 2006, some of which he helped fight. Carlson said that wasn't surprising. The burned material "disappears in the other ash" and could be trampled or washed away by firefighters.
A remnant of a mosquito coil was found at the site of a suspicious wildfire in 1999, said another witness, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Eric Hoffmann.
Eason is not charged with that fire or others because the statute of limitations expired. But Carlson testified he suspects Eason of having set fires since he was in his late teens.
"The evidence indicates to me that he started back in the '80s," the investigator said under cross-examination by defense lawyer Rodney Beede.
On average nationwide, about 30 percent of arson fires are set by firefighters, Carlson testified.
Arsonists commonly operate in areas close to home, where they are familiar with the landscape, he said. They use time-delay devices so they can be elsewhere and have alibis when fires start, he said.
"They feel they have the odds on their side to light a fire and get away with it," Carlson said. ...
Jury convicts man in Capay Valley fires
By Hudson Sangree
Oct. 29, 2008
A Capay Valley volunteer fire fighter accused of setting wildfires he later helped extinguish was convicted today of 14 felony counts, including 12 counts of arson.
Robert Eric Eason, 39, of Guinda, sat quietly beside his attorney as the verdicts were read. The 14 counts relate to fires in 2006, when investigators recorded movements of Eason's Ford Tempo via a satellite tracking device and roadside cameras. Those fires ranged from easy-to-extinguish small blazes, to a wind-driven inferno that charred 1,000 and killed more than 200 sheep in the agricultural valley.
Jurors said they were unable to reach verdicts on four other arson charges stemming from fires in 2005. Judge Stephen L. Mock declared a mistrial on those charges.
The judge revoked his bail today, and Eason was then returned to Yolo County Jail, where he'll await sentencing, in late November. ...
From: "Many Tourists Unfazed by Fire Raging Near Yosemite"
By GARANCE BURKE
The Associated Press
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif., July 29, 2008
" ... Meanwhile, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced a $50,000 reward for information leading to the person who ignited a wildfire last month that destroyed 87 homes in and around the town of Paradise. The fire contributed to at least one death, an elderly woman who suffered a heart attack while evacuating. ... "
UPDATE: Humboldt Fire award upped
By Paul Wellersdick
CAL FIRE, through an increase by the Governor's Office, is now offering up to $50,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for starting the Humboldt Fire. The reward is $72,000 thanks to several community members who made pledges that increased the reward.
Butte Community Bank has pledged $10,000. Gail Miller, through the Miller Family Trust has pledged $10,000. Gary Powers with Holiday Pools and Steven Pereira with Certified Systems have each pledged $1,000, according to a CAL FIRE press release. CAL FIRE hopes through the continued community support that an arrest will be made soon, the release stated.
For information that may lead to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the Humboldt Fire, please call (530) 521-8104. Messages left on this number will be checked regularly. Please leave pertinent contact information so a fire investigator can follow up.
On June 11, at approximately 12:11p.m., a vegetation fire started on Humboldt Road in Butte County. The fire, known as the Humboldt Fire ultimately consumed 23,500 acres, causing approximately $34 million in property damage.
Fire suppression costs exceeded $10 million. The Humboldt Fire was one of the most destructive fires in Butte County history. Fire investigators, through a diligent and focused investigation have determined the cause to be arson, the release stated.
"The community has been, in essence, attacked," CAL FIRE Chief Henri Brachais said in the press release. "The people who live and work in these areas need closure, and a time to heal. ... "
VIDEO - Officials: Arson Behind Santiago Fire
At Least One Fire Was Arson
"Officials have confirmed that the Santiago fire in Orange, Calif., was the work of an arsonist. Meanwhile, firefighters regroup and evacuees wonder about their homes. Katie Couric ... "
Man Arrested in Suspected El Dorado County Arson
By Bill Lindelof - firstname.lastname@example.org
September 13, 2008
A 50-year-old man has been arrested for suspicion of arson in El Dorado County.
Alfredo Joel Cuevas was arrested on a charge of arson to the wildland after a grass fire and a chicken coop fire this week. Cal Fire officials stated in a press release that on Thursday fire units responded to a fire in the area of Chapin and Excelsior roads in Placerville. Firefighters were able to contain the grass fire to about one quarter of an acre.
The person who called in that fire reported seeing someone leaving the scene of the blaze. Investigators determined that the cause of the grass fire was arson. Firefighters returned at 3:35 a.m. Friday to put out a grass fire that also burned a chicken coop. While conducting that investigation, firefighters arrested Cuevas.
Arson in Mendocino County
Arson arrest in Covelo fire
Ukiah Daily Journal Staff
Article Last Updated: 07/25/2008 12:01:39 AM PDT
A Covelo woman has been arrested on charges of arson for allegedly setting fire to an uninhabited building on Lovell Street in Covelo Monday afternoon, according to reports from the Mendocino County Sheriff's Office.
According to sheriff's reports, Allison Low, 49, of Covelo, went into an uninhabited building at 76201 Lovell Street to scavenge for items the previous tenants may have abandoned. When she was unable to find what she was looking for, Low allegedly set fire to the building, according to sheriff's reports.
Firefighters from the Covelo Volunteer Fire Department and Cal Fire were summoned to the fire by neighbors. By the time they arrived the building was fully involved and flames had spread across a field to threaten several other buildings. Quick work by firefighters and a nearby resident with a tractor contained the fire before it could do significant damage to surrounding homes.
Witnesses at the scene told officers they had seen two women driving away from the scene just before the fire erupted. Low was identified as one of the women in the car, according to sheriff's reports.
Sheriff's deputies found Low and during an interview she told deputies she started the fire because she was angry that she couldn't find the items she was looking for, according to sheriff's reports. Low was arrested on suspicion of arson and a probation violation and was booked into the Mendocino County Jail, where she is being held without bail.
August 31, 2008
Arsonist caught: An arsonist was caught and arrested last Friday after setting a fire on timber land in Mendocino County when a helicopter pilot saw the suspect light the fire, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The suspect admitted to starting the fires, according to the Forest Service, which said evidence on the suspect indicated he was associated with marijuana cultivation. Because of fast action, the fire was contained to 50 acres.
Arson Suspected in Woodbridge Fire
News10 ABC (Northern California)
September 8, 2008
WOODBRIDGE, CA - Firefighters stayed through the night to mop up a grass fire in Woodbridge Recreational Area that forced evacuations and damaged several homes Sunday afternoon.
The fire reached the roofs of four residences but firefighters and neighbors got water to them before there was major damage. Neighbors fought the fire with garden hoses until firefighters arrived.
"There were quite a few flames still here and I just tried to put them out the best I could," said Woodbridge resident Carol Krist, who managed to keep flames from coming up a levee toward her house.
Multiple firefighting agencies from as far away as Manteca were called to the scene.
"There were four roof fires. The crews got on those right away, so we're very fortunate," said Woodbridge Fire District Chief Mike Kirkle.
Kirkle said it appeared the blaze was deliberately set because fires erupted at the same time in three different spots. He says the San Joaquin County Sheriff's Department is now involved in the case.
"They do have some suspects. They are investigating," Kirkle said. There have been no arrests.
Between three and four acres burned.
Arson at Half Moon Bay
Arson suspected in forest inferno
JUN 12, 2008
BY MIKE ROSENBERG, THE EXAMINER
HALF MOON BAY (Map, News) - A transient who alerted authorities to a fire near Half Moon Bay on Tuesday was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of starting the blaze, police said. Michael Taylor, 47, was camping in a woodland area called Spanish Town on the 12000 block of San Mateo Road just east of Half Moon Bay in unincorporated San Mateo County when he flagged down a police sergeant to report the fire around 5 p.m., Half Moon Bay police said.
A San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office deputy then arrested Taylor, who was on probation for unknown charges. Sheriff’s officers interviewed Taylor and determined he started the fire, arresting him on felony arson charges, Sheriff’s Office Lt. Marc Alcantara said. ...
Arson in Tilden, CA
A fire fighter mops up a suspicious blaze that destroyed a covered picnic area in Tilden...
Arson suspected in Tilden Park fire
By Doug Oakley and Robert Salonga
Bay Area News Group
Article Last Updated: 05/20/2008
ORINDA — A wildland fire that destroyed two Tilden Regional Park structures Monday afternoon was intentionally set, the Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District said today.
Witnesses reported that three young males were seen in the area of the fire before it broke out, and investigators are trying to find out who they were, said Moraga-Orinda battalion chief Bryan Collins.
East Bay Regional Parks Police, state firefighting agency Cal Fire and the fire district were still determining the exact cause of the fire, but have concluded that it was likely an arson, Collins said. It destroyed a covered picnic area and a women's restroom.
Fifteen fire engines, one helicopter, two air tankers and about 40 firefighters responded to the blaze around 2:30 p.m. at Gillespie Youth Camp on South Park Drive, said Rob Van Wormer, a Cal Fire battalion chief. Fire crews from the East Bay Regional Parks Department, Moraga-Orinda Fire Protection District, Cal Fire and Contra Costa Fire District also went to the park.
Van Wormer estimated the damage at $75,000. The two buildings were destroyed. ...
California fires may have been started by volunteer firefighters
July 23, 2008
CALIFORNIA (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Fire Investigators think that they've found two people who started several wildfires in California, turns out they're volunteer firefighters. They say Christopher Furtado is an assistant chief, and Teddy Lee works the front lines. Police say that both men are behind more than 30 fires in June, all in the Fresno area. ...
Details: "Volunteer Firefighters Suspects In Arson String"
VIDEO: "Laton Firefighters Suspected of Arson"
Charges Dropped by DA: "Lack of Evidence"
Charges dropped against arson suspects
By Joe Johnson
The two Laton volunteer firefighters arrested earlier this week on suspicion of involvement in over 30 fires in the Kings and Fresno counties area over the past year were released on Wednesday afternoon when prosecutors claimed not to have enough evidence to file charges against them. ...
Investigators with the Kings County Sheriff's office are still working to determine if there is a connection to the Kings Country Club fire. When contacted this morning, Assistant Sheriff Brian Wheat said only that the "investigation still continues" and that they were still assisting with the case.
Two Incidents of Arson in Southern CA:
Wildfires still plague Southern Calif.
... The Orange County Fire Authority confirmed this morning that the reward offered for the arrest and conviction of those responsible for the Santiago Canyon arson fire is $285,000. ...
Meanwhile, a 41-year-old Sun Valley man suspected of starting a fire in the West Hills area Wednesday has been charged with arson, the district attorney's office said today. Catalino Pineda is to be arraigned in Van Nuys Superior Court, said Deputy Dist. Atty. Steven Frankland. He is accused of one count of arson of a structure or forest.
Pineda is being held in lieu of $75,000 bail. If convicted, he could face up to six years in prison. The fire he is accused of setting was quickly extinguished. ...
White truck sought by California arson investigators
CNN, October 27, 2007
(CNN) -- Officials are searching for the driver of a white truck seen on Santiago Canyon Road on Sunday, near the time the Santiago fire started, Orange County authorities said Friday.
Chief Chip Prather holds a photo of a white truck similar to the one seen on Santiago Canyon Road.
"These people are not suspects at this time," Orange County Fire Authority Chief Chip Prather said. "They are persons of interest who were seen near the fire in a vehicle like this." The vehicle is a white, 1998 to 2004 Ford F150 pickup with chrome tubular running boards. Prather said the information came from a lead called into the investigation's tip line.
A $250,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the arrest of the person or persons responsible for the blaze. ...
Arson in Windsor, Santa Rosa and Forestville
BUSY DAY FOR FIREFIGHTERS
Stony Point ranch destroyed
By LAURA NORTON
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
September 3, 2008
... Six brush fires burned briefly Monday night in Windsor, Santa Rosa and Forestville, the result of arson, Windsor Fire Chief Ron Collier said.
But fire also damaged some structures in addition to the Stony Point Road ranch. A cabin burned on Mountain Home Ranch Road between Santa Rosa and Calistoga just before 10 a.m., and a Rincon Valley mobile home was damaged by fire at 10:35 a.m. A neighbor in the Brookwood mobile home park on Montecito Boulevard spotted smoke wafting out of the mobile home's skirting about a half hour after the occupant had left, Pforsich said. Faulty aluminum wiring, common in mobile homes built before 1971, is believed to be the cause.
The Red Cross is assisting that resident with food and clothing and is also providing Rob and Susan Silvey with three nights' lodging, food and clothing, said local Red Cross spokeswoman, Ellen Miremonte Silver.
The fire at the Silveys' Stony Point Road property closed the street between Millbrae and Wilfred avenues while fire crews from Santa Rosa, Rincon Valley, Cal Fire and Rohnert Park fought the 2½-acre, seven-structure fire for about two hours. The estimated loss was $500,000 in belongings and $500,000 to $600,000 in structures, said Lantz.
"We don't have anything. We lost everything," Susan Silvey said. "We don't even have ID."
Terrorism/Arson Threat in Susanville, CA
Susanville, CA Man Faces Terrorist Threat Charges
" ... Michael Karl McNeil, 34, a former firefighter with the United States Forest Service, faces 36 felony charges in Los Angeles Superior Court of using explosives, arson and making terrorist threats. ... McNeil is charged with violating California Penal Code Section 451 (d), arson. ... "
August 26, 2008
Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction — much stranger.
Susanville resident Michael Karl McNeil, 34, a former firefighter with the United States Forest Service, faces 36 felony charges in Los Angeles Superior Court of using explosives, arson and making terrorist threats.
The charges were filed by the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office on Thursday, Aug. 7. His bail has been set at $2.87 million.
Several sources close to the case say they expect additional charges may be filed against McNeil in the future.
Apparently McNeil, embroiled in a bitter divorce battle in Lassen Superior Court, tried to discredit his wife, a Kazakhstan national (part of the former Soviet Union), by sending threatening e-mails that appeared to come from her computer to national and local elected officials.
The threatened officials include Lassen County Superior Court Judge Stephen Bradbury, Lassen County Superior Court Judge Donald Sokol, Lassen County District Attorney Robert Burns, Lassen County Public Defender David Marcus, Los Angeles County Sheriff Leroy Baca, United States Senator Barbara Boxer, United States Congresswoman Mary Bono, Anne Bryant, Rob Jordan and a Los Angeles peace officer.
According to the documents filed in the Los Angeles County Superior Court, McNeil delivered 34 terrorist threats in just 26 days between Sunday, July 6 and Thursday, July 31.
McNeil also faces felony charges of using a destructive device and explosive to destroy property and arson. Sources close to the investigation say McNeil soon may face more criminal charges.
Tom Downing, a Susanville Police Department captain, said the SPD began the investigation, but turned it over to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. ...
While most of the victims are Lassen County residents, Downing said it is believed the alleged crimes were committed at McNeil’s father’s house in Southern California, and that’s why the investigation moved out of Susanville. Downing declined to discuss the exact nature of the terrorist threats or the facts of the case. ...
McNeil is charged with violating California Penal Code Section 451 (d), arson. That section applies to a person who “willfully and maliciously sets fire to or burns or causes to be burned or who aids, counsels, or procures the burning of, any structure, forest land, or property."
Teens Confess to Sparking Calabasas Blaze
August 27, 2008
CALABASAS -- A couple of teenagers admitted to starting an 80 acre blaze near Malibu Creek State Park on Tuesday, a sheriff's lieutenant said today.
The two 15-year-old boys turned themselves in to the Lost Hills Sheriff's Station Wednesday afternoon, said Lt. Larry Lincoln of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Arson Explosives Detail.
The boys were released to their parents after being booked on suspicion of recklessly causing the fire.
Investigators found fireworks near the blaze's point of origin, Lincoln said. The investigators also spoke with witnesses who said they saw two boys running from the scene. ...
Five fires burn 50 acres in Griffith Park
The blazes started within a two-hour period.
Arson is suspected.
By Jia-Rui Chong and Jason Song
Los Angeles Times Staff Writers
August 17, 2008
Three hundred firefighters battled five brush fires that broke out Saturday afternoon in Griffith Park, causing officials to evacuate Travel Town and raising questions about the ignition of so many blazes in less than two hours, authorities said.
Arson investigators were on the scene investigating the cause of the fires, Deputy Fire Chief Mario Rueda said.
"There's no lightning, so we can rule that one out," said Los Angeles Fire Department spokeswoman d'Lisa Davies.
"Fires in the park don't start for natural reasons," Rueda said, noting that past fires there had tended to be caused by humans, accidentally or intentionally. ...
L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was reached by cellphone in Griffith Park, said law enforcement and fire officials at the scene indicated to him that arson was suspected.
"It shows great disrespect for nature that someone would start a fire," he said.
Saturday's fires followed two others in the northern part of Griffith Park in the past three weeks. The area burning near Travel Town was not involved in the large fire last summer.
L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, who was reached by cellphone in Griffith Park, said law enforcement and fire officials at the scene indicated to him that arson was suspected.
"It shows great disrespect for nature that someone would start a fire," he said.
Saturday's fires followed two others in the northern part of Griffith Park in the past three weeks. The area burning near Travel Town was not involved in the large fire last summer. ...
Convicted arsonist charged in Griffith Park fires
The Glendale man on probation for a 2007 conviction is charged with four felony counts of arson. Officials say he was seen leaving the scene of a slow-moving brush fire.
By Andrew Blankstein
Los Angeles Times
August 26, 2008
Los Angeles County prosecutors charged a 43-year-old probationer with multiple counts of arson today in connection with a series of fires in Griffith Park.
Gary Allen Lintz was arrested Saturday after hikers spotted him leaving an area near Griffith Park Drive where a slow-moving brush fire had broken out, authorities said.
The Glendale man, who was on probation for a 2007 arson conviction, was charged with four felony counts of arson, including a special allegation of great bodily injury to a firefighter and a strike allegation for a prior conviction. ...
Investigators said they believed Lintz had a connection to a total of eight recent fires at the park.
Arson suspected in San Bernardino County
2 fires interrupt traffic on 15 Freeway
Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
OAK HILLS - Two small brush fires burned a total of seven acres near the Cajon Summit on Saturday, prompting lane closures on the 15 Freeway and the deployment of four air tankers before the blaze was quelled. ...
At 2:34 p.m., the California Highway Patrol received a report that the fires may have been ignited by road flares tossed from a southbound vehicle on the 15 just south of Oak Hill Road. But it was unclear Saturday if that report was accurate. ...
Small brush fire near Grossmont College deemed suspicious
By Mark Arner
UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER/October 22, 2008
SANTEE – A 1-acre brush fire Wednesday morning on a hilltop just north of Grossmont College has been deemed suspicious by fire investigators after they discovered a matchbook.
An air drop helped douse the brush fire north of Grossmont College.
Richard Mattick, a deputy chief from the Santee Fire Department, said investigators found the matches near the location where they believe the fire started. ...
Several dozen firefighters from eight agencies responded by land and air and brought the fire under control about an hour after it started. About a dozen engines and brush rigs, along with three helicopters, were used to douse the flames. ...
Arson Suspected in Santa Barbara County
Gap Fire 70 Percent Contained
Neighborhoods West of Windermere Ranch Still Evacuated
By Indy Staff
July 11, 2008
... The suppression cost is counted at over $15 million. The Gap Fire’s cause is still under investigation and believed to be human—by accident or arson. The Los Padres National Forest Service continues to ask members of the public to call the 24-hour tipline at 805-961-5710 if they have any information. ...
GAP FIRE ARSONIST CHARGED
16-year-old charged with arson in July wildfire near Goleta
The youth, already in custody on unrelated charges, is arrested. The blaze burned 9,544 acres, destroyed four outbuildings and cost $20 million to fight.
By Tami Abdollah
November 18, 2008
Officials announced the arrest of a 16-year-old boy on arson charges Monday in relation to a Santa Barbara County fire that destroyed 9,544 acres and four outbuildings near Goleta in July. The boy, charged late Monday afternoon, was already in custody on unrelated charges in the county's juvenile detention facility in Santa Maria, said Kathy Good, a spokeswoman for the Los Padres National Forest.
A five-month investigation that involved tips from named and unnamed sources led to the arrest, said Capt. Eli Iskow, of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. He said investigators would not release details until later.
The Gap fire, which burned for 28 days, began in the Lizard Mouth area of Los Padres National Forest in Santa Barbara County and cost more than $20 million to fight, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Good said work was still underway to restore a watershed affected by the fire. ...
Abdollah is a Times staff writer.
Serial Arsonist in Riverside
September 25, 2008
MURRIETA, Calif. (KABC) -- Authorities say a serial arsonist is on the loose in Southwest Riverside County.
Six small brushfires were set in Murrieta, two Monday, and four on Tuesday. The largest of the half-dozen fires was a ten-acre blaze two days ago. ...
Arson Suspected in Malibu
Fire Destroys Malibu Beachfront Homes, Arson Suspected
July 3, 2008
MALIBU -- Three beachfront homes in Malibu went up in flames this morning, forcing the closure of Pacific Coast Highway. Investigators now say the fire appears to be arson.
he blaze started just before 3 a.m. inside a vacant tri-level, milion-dollar home at 21110 Pacific Coast Highway, Los Angeles County Fire Department Inspector Darryl Jacobs said.
The flames quickly spread to two adjacent homes.
An Austrian tourist, who was staying inside one of the homes, was awakened by sounds of crackling. ...
Arson in Sacramento
VIDEO: DISTURBING FIRES PURPOSELY SET
Fires Scorch 20 Acres Of Wildlife Area
Blazes Burn Near American River Parkway
July 15, 2008
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Three wildfires that scorched 20 acres near the American River on Tuesday were intentionally set, Sacramento Metro Fire investigators said. The fires caused damage to one of the city's most beautiful wildlife areas and endangered the lives of fire fighters, officials said in a news release.
The first fire started about 3:30 p.m. on the American River Parkway between River Bend Park and Hagan Park. Upon arrival at the scene, units found two separate grass fires. Park rangers soon reported a third wildfire. ... Anyone with information about these fires can call the Sac Metro Fire Arson Tip Line at (916) 566-4320.
Brush fires in Vista, CA Look Like Arson
Brush fires off Route 78 close two lanes, off-ramp
July 21, 2008
VISTA: Two brush fires flared up just south of state Route 78 yesterday afternoon and prompted the closure of two lanes and the Escondido Avenue off-ramp for about 30 minutes, officials said.
The fires were reported at 4:11 p.m. between Mar Vista Avenue and Escondido Avenue and may have been sparked by arson, the California Highway Patrol said. One of the fires ignited a tree, but no structures were damaged.
Crews brought the fires under control shortly after 5 p.m., officials said. Authorities closed at least two freeway lanes at 4:30 p.m. and reopened all lanes shortly after 5 p.m, the CHP said. – M.A.
A MURDER & ARSON NEAR KELSEY, CA
" ... Both were also charged with arson of forestland and arson of personal property. ... "
Charges filed against pair in Presba murder case
By Chelsea Phua and Niesha Lofing
July 30, 2008
The El Dorado County district attorney filed murder charges Wednesday against Garden Valley residents Patricia Presba and Jaime Ramos, in connection with the death of Presba's husband. Presba and Ramos are charged with the murder of Ronald Presba with special circumstance, alleging they intentionally killed the victim for financial gain.
District Attorney Vern Pierson said if convicted, the pair could face the death penalty or life without the possibility of parole.
Pierson declined to comment on the specifics of the case, citing the ongoing investigation. Ramos also received an enhancement charge, alleging personal use of a dangerous or deadly weapon.
Both were also charged with arson of forestland and arson of personal property. ...
Presba and Ramos, 21, were arrested over the weekend, about a month after 54-year-old Ronald Presba's burnt-out sports utility vehicle was found in a ravine off Highway 193.
Firefighters made the discovery while battling a wildland fire near Kelsey. A forensic autopsy has not yet confirmed that the severely burned body found in the floorboard of the passenger seat is Presba, but it is presumed to be the Garden Valley man.
Arson in Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz fires 'definitely' arson, police to increase patrols
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Sep 17, 2008
Article Launched: 09/18/2008
Three fires break out in Santa Cruz in just over an hour Tuesday night
SANTA CRUZ — Tuesday night's wildland fires were intentionally set, and police said Wednesday they have no suspects in the arsons. The fires were clustered in the Pogonip and Harvey West areas, and all started within an hour of one another. ...
Fire officials ruled out every other source of ignition, but found no accelerants, Santa Cruz Fire Department investigator Mark Ramos said. More than 20 engines from various departments as well as inmate hand crews fought the three fires, which Ramos said were of "extreme concern" given at least one burned near homes and an apartment complex.
"I have no idea as far as motives or patterns," said Ramos, who pointed out that it is his job to determine the origin and cause of the fire and the Police Department's job to find the arsonist. ...
Just as the first fire was doused, another wildland fire broke out between Edgecliff Way and the Highway 1 bypass in a residential neighborhood. The 50-by-50-foot blaze was near a path that connects to the Harvey West area and prompted 20 residents of The Ambassador apartments to be evacuated for an hour.
The third fire was reported at 8:30 p.m. near Evergreen Cemetery near Coral Street, between the first two fires. It burned roughly 800 square feet near the baseball diamonds.
Ramos said this isn't the first time the city has experienced a string of fires, but said it's been a long time since the last incident.
Police asked anyone with information about the fires to call 420-5820.
TWO MONTHS AGO ...
Destructive Santa Cruz Mountains fire human-caused
Thursday, July 3, 2008
(07-03) (AP) -- Fire officials say a person started the fire that began in the Santa Cruz Mountains last month and destroyed 11 buildings.
The wildfire erupted June 11 and charred 520 acres in the Bonny Doon community.
John Ferreira, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection's unit chief for Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties, says the blaze was human-caused but it's not known whether it was deliberately set or an accident.
Information from: Santa Cruz Sentinel, www.santacruzsentinel.com
Possible Arson in Windsor, California, Foothill Regional Park
Windsor grass fire probed as possible arson
July 18, 2008
A grass fire at Foothill Regional Park in Windsor was being investigated Thursday as a possible arson. ... The fire, about 200 yards inside the popular hiking park, was held to about half an acre. Fire investigators worked on the cause Wednesday night and ruled out all obvious ways the fire could have started, said state forestry Battalion Chief Eric Hoffmann.
He said the fire is considered suspicious.
The park fire effort included Cal Fire, Windsor, Rincon Valley, Healdsburg and Geyserville firefighters as well as two air tankers.
Also see: The Fires Last Time, Part II (California Arson)
And: Arson in Banning:
Arson in Martin:
Arson at Highway 1:
Arson at Highway 120:
Arson in San Luis Obispo County:
Arson in Chico
Chico Hot Spot for Arson
"Chico is among the state's worst cities for arson. According to new F.B.I. crime statistics, Chico ranked 20th in the state for arson fires in 2007. Last year the city had 58 reported fires labeled arson, a twenty percent drop from 2006, but still more than double the amount in many larger california cities like Berkeley and Concord. ... "
California Arson String in 2007:
" ... The City Creek Fire was ignited about 1:30 p.m. on September 23, and raced from about 3000 feet elevation upslope to almost 5000 feet. The flashy fuels along the highway allowed the fire to make a hot run up through brush and grass into the mixed conifer fuels at the top. ... 'The aircraft and equipment were able to hold it till the temperatures moderated toward the end of the day. Through the canyon in the bottom is a major highway that leads to Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear, and Running Springs. These are major resort communities, so we had some substantial road closures. We had engines -- five strike teams with a variety of types and agencie.' ... "
Arson in San Diego
Economist Offers Sobering Talk
Livestock Weekly, TX - Oct 9, 2008 - " ... ‘Arson up 500 percent in San Diego ... "
2007 Arson by Blackwater:
The Growing Threat of Wildfire Government - newsblaze.com/story:
Fire watchers on the alert for wildfire, arson
Volunteer force says it will be well-prepared when winds whip up fire danger.
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
September 23, 2008
Green vests, signs on car doors, radios: The fire-watch volunteers are ready.
That was the message Irvine Ranch Conservancy leaders hoped to convey Tuesday as they held a demonstration of how their force will be deployed.
The idea is for hundreds of volunteers to fan out across Orange County's wild land during times of high fire danger, watching for potential arsonists or the merely careless and hoping to prevent another massive conflagration. ...
California's Secret Witness Program
Oct. 13, 2008
" ... Up to $5,000 by various fire agencies for information about people responsible for arson or fires that burn or threaten commercial, federal or state timberlands in Plumas, Lassen, Tehama, Modoc, Shasta and Siskiyou counties. ... "
"Convicted arsonists are required to register in the state arson database for life. In addition, they are required to submit a DNA sample, along with palm and fingerprints. They must register with the law enforcement agency where they live. Failure to comply could result in a return to jail, or a misdemeanor violation. ... "
" ... countless arsonists remain free ... "
Investigators look for evidence in the ashes
Tracking down arsonists can take years and requires patience, science, ash, and sometimes a little luck.
By KIMBERLY EDDS
THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
SANTA ANA - The 15-year-old had time to burn. Long after he should have been in bed, he was out on the street. Boredom and opportunity collided. He started setting cypress trees on fire, letting them burn like roman candles against the night.
An entourage of fire investigators secretly tagged along, watching as he sprayed graffiti as they waited for him to continue burning his way across the city. He was arrested, accused of setting 24 of the 27 fires.
"Fires just don't start on their own," said Capt. Dan Moorhouse, a fire investigator with the Santa Ana Fire Department. "All it takes is one little match, one little flick of the Bic, and look at what happens."
What begins as lighting trash bin fires or trees, if left unchecked, can quickly progress to something much more dangerous – and even deadly. Millions of dollars and hundreds of lives are lost every year, along with peace of mind – the casualties of arsonists.
At least half a dozen of the more than 30 blazes that erupted during the 2007 California firestorm, including Orange County's Santiago fire, that charred more than 500,000 acres and burned hundreds of homes were ruled arson. Reward money in the hundreds of thousands of dollars remains unclaimed. And as firefighters brace themselves for the inevitable return of Santa Ana winds, countless arsonists remain free.
Hunting an arsonist is never easy.
Despite advances in DNA and other crime fighting techniques, most arson cases go unsolved. Only 5 percent to 7 percent of arson offenses result in convictions, according to FBI statistics, a harsh reality of largely circumstantial cases and strained budgets. ...
Sunday, August 17, 2008
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