Four people suspected of arson have been arrested after firefighters responded to dozens of small fires in Northern California over the weekend.
In less than 48 hours, the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District responded to more than 30 small fires. They were reported in four clusters within a 15-mile radius from Friday night through Sunday, with many occurring near homes and businesses and along roadways, said fire district spokesman Steve Hill.
Like Southern California, where several bushfires were burning Thursday night, conditions in Bay Area County east of San Francisco are ripe for dangerous and deadly wildfires. But the fires were put out quickly and major incidents were avoided.
County officials said the fires were started intentionally. It doesn’t appear that any of the suspects have been connected, Hill said.
“It’s quite unusual to have so many intentionally started fires in a relatively short period of time,” Hill said. “It is probably even more unusual that four suspected arsonists are arrested as a result.”
As in Southern California, where several bushfires were burning Thursday night, fire conditions in Bay Area County east of San Francisco were dangerous, but the Contra Costa fires were put out quickly and major incidents have been avoided.
“It’s a bad time because of the dangerous conditions we have right now,” Hill said.
Victor Esquivias-Jaime, 45, was arrested around 3 a.m. on May 7 on eight counts of arson of forest land. Around noon that day, Davin Wilson, 42, of Concord was arrested on suspicion of six counts of arson. Michael Darder, 36, of Antioch was arrested around 10 p.m. on suspicion of arson and resisting arrest.
A fourth person was arrested on Sunday in connection with another series of fires, but authorities did not release the identity of the suspect, citing the ongoing investigation.
One of the suspects was arrested at his home and at least two were arrested at or near the scene of the fires, Hill said.
“While we were putting out nearby fires…one of the [the suspects] was seen setting fires nearby,” he said, adding that witnesses reported another suspect was seen leaving the scene of a fire and in the area of another fire .
Hill did not say where the fourth suspect was identified or arrested.
Early reports from residents prevented the blazes from turning into large, destructive blazes, Hill said.
“We were able to get to the scenes of these fires fairly quickly and keep them small and damage control,” he said.
Hill also credited the “overwhelming” response from fire crews; Just before the fires, the fire protection district increased the number of vehicles dispatched to the wildfires, he said.
“We had just started last Friday with wildfire responses, which meant we deemed the danger so great that we were going to start sending five engines to every outdoor wildfire,” Hill said. “It was a good time.”