Via the LATimes:
Amid worries of new blazes adding to the firestorm already afflicting the region, a man in Hesperia has been arrested on suspicion of arson, and police reported shooting and killing another arson suspect after chasing him out of scrub behind Cal State San Bernardino.
Law enforcement officials said today that they didn’t know whether either of the men had started any of the more than a dozen large fires that have devastated Southern California in recent days, including the nearby Lake Arrowhead blaze. The brush fire in Hesperia was quickly extinguished by residents.
Investigators have said that at least two of the huge wildfires, one in Orange County and the other in Temecula, were the work of arsonists.
The confrontation that ended in the shooting death started about 6 p.m. Tuesday when San Bernardino university police spotted a man in a rural area of flood channels and scrub near the campus. University police tried to detain the man, but he got into his car and fled, authorities said.
“We don’t know whether he was an arsonist,” said Lt. Scott Patterson of the San Bernardino Police Department, which joined the pursuit. “What was related by the Cal State police was that they tried to contact him as a suspicious person in a brush area. Things being how they are, there was a suspicion that he could be an arsonist.”
The area near the campus had been affected by the massive Old Fire of 2003, Patterson said, adding that “it’s very fire-prone. It’s an area that would be very devastated if a fire were to start there.”
The man, whose identity has not been released, drove north on Waterman Avenue and up a dirt fire road into the foothills. When officers tried to take him into custody, the man began to ram officers’ vehicles, Patterson said. Officers shot and killed him.
CBS News has learned a task force of agencies, including the FBI, ATF, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the California Department of Forestry will announce shortly that the massive Santiago Canyon Fire – which has caused an estimated $10 million in damage – is being officially declared an arson, and a $50,000 reward is being offered to find the arsonist.
Investigators have identified two separate “points of origin” where they believe the fire was set, CBS News has learned. FBI agents secured the scene to “maintain its integrity.”
The Santiago Fire has burned about 19,200 acres east of Irvine, officials said, and it is around 30 percent contained. Six homes and eight outbuildings have been destroyed, with another eight homes and 12 outbuildings damaged. Four firefighters have been injured fighting the blaze and about 3,000 people evacuated.
California authorities and FBI agents searched a home Wednesday as part of the arson investigation.
The search was conducted in Orange County by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI, the official said.
Wildfires and environmental obstructionism