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Arson suspected in De Luz, Murrieta fires

 

Last updated 10/2/2008 at Noon



The first fire happened Monday, September 22, shortly after 1 p.m. in Murrieta. Another popped up several hours later, miles away from the first.

When a third brushfire broke out the next day, near the first blaze, fire and law enforcement officials knew an arsonist was sparking fires through out the community. By Tuesday night, firefighters would fight another two fires within the city.

“This is the worst crime because this person is doing something like this in communities where there are houses and schools,” said Murrieta Fire Chief Paul Christman. “These fires are near where a lot of people live.”

On Wednesday, September 24, Murrieta fire and police departments put extra units on patrol hoping to deter more fires and find out who was responsible. As of Wednesday afternoon, no arrests had been made and the fire department had no witnesses, said Stephanie Smith, spokeswoman for the fire department.

“We are still sifting through the information we have,” she said. “Our investigators will put together a profile of a suspect and we will go from there.”

The first fire started near Sugarberry Lane east of Jackson Avenue on Monday at 1:15 p.m. The area is graded, open land near a community of manufactured homes, newly built tract homes and a condo/town home community.

Students often cut across the area to get home from school.

Three hours later, firefighters were called out to De Luz Canyon for two quarter-acre fires nearly 300 yards apart, Smith said. Firefighters put out the fire in 45 minutes and a wooden fence was damaged.

On Tuesday, the fires started again shortly past noon.

Firefighters quickly put out another fire in the Sugarberry area at 2:17 p.m. Thirty minutes later they rushed back out to the De Luz Canyon area for another fire near Hayes Avenue and Guava Street.

The arsonist returned to Sugarberry and set the largest of the six fires near Jackson Avenue and Marco Polo Street. The fire burned 10 acres; structures were threatened but none suffered any damage, Smith said.

Over the course of two days and six fires, three firefighters were treated for bee stings.

Christman said investigators found evidence that each fire was ignited by a person or persons.

“We don’t know if it’s juveniles messing around, or if we have something more involved than that,” he said.

Authorities are asking for the public’s help in providing any information that may lead to apprehension of those that have started the fires.

“It’s the people who call us over something suspicious that really helps us,” he said. “That’s usually how we catch these people.”

If you observe someone setting a fire, call 9-1-1. If you have information to report to authorities about possible suspects, contact the Murrieta Police Department at (951) 696-3600.

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