Residents protest hit-and-run charge, suspect arson in Sandia Creek Fire
Last updated 1/30/2023 at 8:55am
A readiness hearing took place last week in relation to the arrest made last year after the Sandia Creek Fire on Sept. 4, 2022. The man arrested was 41-year-old Fallbrook resident Preston Judd.
The readiness hearing related to a misdemeanor hit and run charge. Judd is accused of fleeing the scene after hitting a wooden light post located at the Sandia Creek Drive gate. However, Village News talked to several Sandia Creek residents who are surprised that Judd is not being charged with arson after viewing a video they say they turned over to authorities.
The Sheriff's Department, North County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire were working together to investigate the incident.
There was an amazing response of air power and ground crews to the Sandia Creek Fire, which mysteriously started near the new Sandia Creek Gate on Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022 at about 1:34 pm.
The fire was contained to 30 acres and there was no loss of life, but residents suspected it was caused by arson after viewing the video surveillance system they installed at the controversial gate.
Sandia Creek resident Ron Wylie wrote, "There is video of this man stopped at the closed gate, and his ensuing actions that followed including a suspicious brush fire there at the side of the road next to his car. There was no fire at any of the wooden light posts that are located there. There was no fire in or on his car as he had gotten out and walked around it prior to the fire starting, then got back in and drove off.
"The tremendous and very expensive response to this rapidly starting and spreading brush fire on a very dry and windy day saved the homes of an entire neighborhood. It appears this man should be held accountable."
Wylie continued, "The 'late notice' that we in the neighborhood received was making it clear to us that the County District Attorney must not have had all of the information and 'evidence' in the case.... and was seemingly getting ready to let this guy off with a warning, a short parole, and basically a 'slap on the hand'.... suggesting that the taxpayers would just be stuck with the costs. Costs, luckily, that did not include any loss of human life.
"A great deal of valuable animal habitat was lost, and we, as neighbors, will likely be stuck having to deal with the dangerous mud and rocks on the road after each rain... and further be saddled with the cleaning and removal of that same mud and debris after every major rain."
Wylie said one of his neighbors did make it down to the hearing and was able to speak with the Deputy District Attorney for the case where he learned that the D.A. and staff had not had the time to even open the file and study the facts before going to this hearing themselves.
Wylie said his neighbor, who Village News was not able to talk to directly, reported, "Learning that there was indeed a great deal of additional facts and supporting information, videos, etc. that might indeed warrant this case being classed as 'arson' rather than a misdemeanor 'hit and run' and the case would be deferred to a later date."
Village News has contacted the District Attorney's office for comment and will continue to report on future developments.