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Arson?

FireCNN is now reporting – Authorities: One of California wildfires ‘human caused’

MONTECITO, California (CNN) — One of three major wildfires burning in southern California appears to be “human caused,” a spokesman for the state’s fire agency said Sunday.

Investigators have eliminated “all accidental causes” of the fire that has destroyed 210 homes and injured two people in Santa Barbara County since Thursday, and arson is suspected, spokesman Doug Lannon said.

“We need the public’s help in identifying any activity in or around the afternoon of November 13,” Lannon said.

In my last post I noted the pattern of three fires in three days moving from the North to the South and starting in similar locations. That doesn’t prove anything, but the pattern makes investigators suspicious. There were no barns with damp hay, no grain elevators, no dry lightning storm. They would start looking for a campfire in the woods, a downed power line, a motor vehicle accident… something to explain why the fires started. It is a process of elimination, but if you can’t find anything else, you are left with concluding that the fire was set.

4 comments

1 Comrade Kevin { 11.17.08 at 7:48 am }

It would be interesting to understand the psychology of an arsonist. They seem to have a lot of them out there in the same place.

2 cookie jill { 11.17.08 at 9:28 am }

It’s a popular area for teens to hang out at. They are suspecting that it might be “accidental”, but human caused none the less. I’m at the point, well almost, where I would have no problem with the punishment for arson for these types of fires would be an “eye for an eye” event….strapped and torched.

Our county is financially in dire straits. We certainly didn’t need another humungous fire to wreak havoc. People forget the financial part of fighting fires, having county/city folks on informational call centers, setting up evacuation centers, etc.

3 Jack K., the Grumpy Forester { 11.17.08 at 10:23 am }

…one of the things that wildland firefighters are taught (just like structural fire fighters, I presume) – and which is constantly reinforced by initial attack incident commanders – is to try to preserve the point of origin so fire investigators can attempt to determine the cause. It can sometimes be a bit challenging in the case of wind-driven fires that aren’t immediately detected to walk out into the woods and point to a specific piece of ground and say “here”, so sometimes it’s quite a while before the cause of ignition is determined…

We’ve had arson problems here in Central Orygun over the years – in fact we have for a number of years have had a Federal/State/Multi-county arson investigation task force – and one of the things I’ve learned from having coworkers on that task force is that around here it is frequently the observation of suspicious activity rather than discovery of some ignition device that leads to an arson determination and eventual apprehension and what sometimes seems to be far too short prison sentences.

With all the tragedy and enormous costs associated with these urban interface fires in California, they should have a fixed minimum sentence for arson with an additional year added for each million dollars in damage and incurred costs…

4 Bryan { 11.17.08 at 12:28 pm }

I was trained to investigate arson in structures, but a wildfire is a huge crime scene. Early reports and wind direction narrow the area down, but it still can’t be easy to find a “point of ignition” and you certainly aren’t going to have any “odors of accelerants” to help, or “flame patterns” on the walls.

Comrade Kevin, some arsonists are clinical pyromaniacs, some do it for revenge, others do it for money, but, I suspect, most do it to generate some “excitement” in their going nowhere lives, i.e. they are sociopathic, disconnected from society.

Another major group are the “stupid”. The people who have done something totally stupid, like burning trash or lighting a camp fire when the winds are gusting and the humidity is below 50%. Most of our local wildfires are started by the stupids, but the fires tend to be quickly controlled because they usually figure out they need to call the fire department and we have a high water table at the moment.

Actually, Jill, some of them might enjoy that, so I would probably stake them out on the water’s edge at low tide and nature take her course.

Like you, Jack, I’m amazed at the light sentences for arson, treating it like criminal mischief, or other property damage crimes. I view arson as attempted murder, because firefighters risk their lives to put these fires out. Every injury should be a separate assault charge. These fires don’t just destroy property, they destroy history, hopes, and dreams. There should be separate charges filed for environmental damage as well.