Cal Fire asks for public’s help as arson arrests rise

Local News

(KTXL) – Fire season has gotten a head start this year, and Cal Fire is encouraging people to not only create defensible space but also report arson suspects. 

“Last year we had over 13,00 lightning strikes, so we were dealing with Mother Nature starting fires. And we don’t need to have the human element on the top of it,” said Cal Fire spokesperson Lynne Tolmachoff. 

In the last four months, Cal Fire law enforcement officers have arrested 44 arson suspects. 

“We are kind of following the path of last year,” Tolmachoff explained.

Last year 120 people were arrested for arson, compared to 70 arrests in 2019, 61 in 2018, 86 in 2017 and 73 arrests in 2016.

“Those are the arrests that we could make. There are plenty that we suspected to be arson, and we were unable to connect somebody with it,” Tolmachoff told FOX40.

One arrest was made two weeks ago. Victor Serriteno was arrested for allegedly starting the 2020 Markley fire, which became part of the LNU Complex Fire.

Investigators say the fire was an attempt to cover up a suspected murder. 

Tolmachoff said we are only a third into this year and haven’t even hit peak fire season, which is why it’s important for the public to report anyone intentionally setting a fire.

“Arson is a very difficult crime to convict on and to investigate, so any little bit of help we can get, we greatly appreciate it,” Tolmachoff said.

Cal Fire is asking people with information about suspicious fires to call their arson hotline at (800) 468-4408.

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