Sunday, 19 May 2024

Arson suspect arrested for Mendocino National Forest fire

MENDOCINO NATIONAL FOREST – US Forest Service officials have arrested a suspect who admitted responsibility for setting a fire near the Mendocino National Forest last Friday.


On the afternoon of Aug. 22, a fire was reported on private timber land near the Mendocino National Forest and within a U.S. Forest Service protection area in Mendocino County, according to a US Forest Service report issued Tuesday.


During a series of water drops, a helicopter pilot observed a man dressed in camouflage, lean over

and start a fire. The pilot reported this incident and firefighting was suspended until law enforcement could secure the area.


The Forest Service had been conducting marijuana eradication operations in the general area earlier in the week, but none on Aug. 22 and nothing in close proximity to these fires, the agency reported.


A Forest Service special agent was just a few miles away, along with three other law enforcement officers, preparing for marijuana eradication operations. These officers and two additional Mendocino County Sheriff's deputies responded to the fire area where they located the man near the fire origin.


The suspect said he was from Mexico and admitted to starting the fires, the Forest Service reported. He

also indicated that there were other people with him. Evidence on the suspect indicated he was associated with marijuana cultivation.


The suspect was arrested and transported to the Mendocino County Jail. The “Island Fire,” which consumed approximately 50 acres, was 100-percent contained as of 6 p.m. on Saturday and is currently undergoing mop up control.


The Forest Service is currently in the process of conducting a thorough origin and cause investigation, as well as searching for other people associated with cultivation sites in the area.


All of the Forest Service officers were recently hired last year due to funding provided by the chief of the Forest Service and Congress. This funding is specifically targeted toward marijuana eradication on public lands.


Marijuana eradications have been a significant problem in recent years on the Mendocino National Forest, which has led the state in the amount of illegal marijuana found on a National Forest.


A joint investigation with the U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department is looking into the Aug. 22 incident, officials reported.


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