MONTEBELLO >> A homeless man who sparked a 384-acre wildfire in the Rio Hondo Riverbed in Montebello last year pleaded “no contest” Thursday to a charge of recklessly causing a fire, prosecutors said. Arturo Miallan Aguilar, 46, was immediately sentenced to a year in county jail and three years of probation and ordered to attend a year-long live-in drug treatment program after entering the plea in Los Angeles Superior Court, Los Angeles County District Attorney’s officials said in a written statement. A restitution hearing was yet to be scheduled. Aguilar sparked the fire while cooking food in the riverbed near the Whittier Narrows Reservoir about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 16, Montebello police Lt. Michael Bergman said. The blaze quickly exploded out of control, ultimately scorching 384 acres in Montebello and nearby unincorporated county area before firefighters contained it days later. No structures were damaged.
Four firefighters suffered minor injuries while fighting the fire, including three who were hurt when a helicopter was forced to make an emergency landing at Rose Hills Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier, and one who suffered heat exhaustion, officials said.
PHOTOS: [TOP] A fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [MIDDLE] Seen from Irwindale on the 605 Freeway, a fast moving brush,tree and bamboo fire spreads through out the Whittier Narrows Recreation area south of the 60 Freeway, Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Mike Mullen photo) [BELOW] A “Super Scooper” Quebec 1 scoops water to fight the Lincoln Fire burning in Montebello Hills as people cool off in the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area in Irwindale on Sunday, August 16, 2015. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda/ San Gabriel Valley Tribune)
DOWNEY >> A sheriff’s patrol car and more than half-a-dozen other vehicles were damaged in a suspected arson fire in the parking lot of the Lakewood Green Line Station Wednesday afternoon.
The “possible arson” took place about 12:30 p.m. at the commuter train station at 12801 Lakewood Blvd., at the 105 Freeway, according to Ramon Montenegro, spokesman for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department’s Transit Services Bureau, which patrols tran stations and lines in the county.
“We’re investigating a possible arson to several vehicles. One of our patrol cars was involved,” he said.
Detectives from the Sheriff’s Arson-Explosives Bureau were summoned to the scene to assist in the investigation, Montenegro added.
Officials could not immediately confirm initial sheriff’s radio broadcasts from the scene that the patrol car was destroyed, and as many as nine additional cars in the parking lot had sustained significant damage.
Officials also could not immediately confirm reports that a possible suspect had been seen leaving the area in a pickup truck, possible fitted with one spare tire.
No injuries were reported, and no further details were available.
PASADENA >> A Pomona man sought on suspicion of killing his wife by setting her on fire on Christmas Day is in custody after police found and arrested him on a bus in Pasadena Sunday morning, authorities said.
Clarence Durell Dear, also described by police as Clarence Duwell Dear, 51, has been sought as a fugitive since Christmas Day, when he doused his wife in gasoline and set her on fire during a domestic dispute at their Pomona home, according to Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez.
Pasadena police officers and Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies tracked Dear down on a Metro bus at Foothill Boulevard and Halstead Street in Pasadena shortly after 10 a.m., sheriff’s officials said.
“Information was received that Clarence Duwell Dear had boarded a bus in the City of Altadena,” Pomona police officials said in a written statement. “Pasadena Police, along with Los Angels County sheriff’s deputies, responded and located the bus and took suspect Dear into custody without incident.”
Pasadena police turned Dear over to Pomona police, where he was booked on suspicion of murder.
Police in Pasadena deferred comment to their counterparts in Pomona. Pomona police released no further details regarding the case or the arrest Sunday.
Dawn Hensley, 41, died following the alleged attack, which took place about 1:45 p.m. Friday at the home the victim and suspect shared in the 1500 block of Cordova Street in Pomona, officials said.
Neighbors reported she fled from her home engulfed in flames and collapsed in the street, Sanchez said.
She was taken to a hospital where she soon succumbed to her injuries.
An autopsy was yet to be carried out Sunday, coroner’s officials said.
Dear has no criminal convictions listed in Los Angeles Superior Court records.
He was being held in lieu of $1 million bail at the Pomona Police Department’s jail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Tuesday in Pomona Superior Court, records show.
POMONA >> Police are seeking a man they say killed his wife by dousing her with gasoline and setting her on fire at their Pomona home on Christmas Day. Clarence Duwell Dear, 51, of Pomona remained at large and was considered “extremely dangerous” Friday night, according to Pomona police Sgt. Bert Sanchez.
Dawn Hensley, 41, died in the alleged attack, police officials said.
The alleged attack took place about 1:45 p.m. in the 1500 block of Cordova Street, police said.
“It appears that during a domestic dispute, (Dear) chased the victim from their residence and was able to douse the victim with gasoline,” Sanchez said in a written statement. “The suspect then ignited the victim, possibly with a lit cigarette.”
“Neighbors who saw the victim run from the residence engulfed in flames rendered assistance as she collapsed on the street and remained with her until LA County Fire personnel arrived,” the sergeant said.
Paramedics took Hensley to a hospital with severe burns, officials said. She died a short time later.
Dear fled from the scene and hasn’t been found, Sanchez said. It was unclear whether he fled on foot, or had access to another form of transportation.
Dear is described as black, 5 feet 10 inches tall, 170 pounds, with black and gray hair and brown eyes.
Anyone who sees Dear, or anyone with information, is asked to contact their local police agency or Pomona police at 909-622-1241.
Tips may also be submitted anonymously through L.A. Regional Crime Stoppers by calling 800-222-8477.
PASADENA >> A man firebombed a Pasadena water store with two people inside Friday, less than a month after his arrest for threatening the same victims and vandalizing their property before leading authorities on a three-hour televised pursuit, officials said.
Karnik Kendirian, 48, is accused of attempted murder and arson after using gasoline to set fire to SoCal Water, 1677 E. Washington Blvd., Pasadena police and fire officials said.
The suspect showed up at the businesses, which had an attacked residence where two adult residents were inside, about 1:20 a.m., Pasadena police Lt. John Mercado said. “He breaks their plate glass window, thrown in a gas can and ignites it,” Mercado said.
The residents escaped unharmed, officials said. Kendirian fled the scene.
The fire caused about $25,000 worth of damage to the store and its contents, Pasadena Fire Department spokeswoman Lisa Derderian said.
“Luckily, we got there quick. (Firefighters) were able to limit the damage.”
The two residents inside a home attached to the rear of the business got out themselves before firefighters arrived, she said.
At the time of the alleged arson attack, Kendirian was out on bail in connection with his previous alleged crime spree, which unfolded Oct. 25. He faces charges of evading police, making criminal threats and vandalism in connection with that case.
Aware of his penchant to flee, police sent an undercover fugitive apprehension team to his home in Pasadena, where he was taken into custody shortly before noon. Kendirian complained of shortness of breath following his arrest, so he was taken to a hospital prior to being booked into jail, Mercado said. Officers used no force while arresting him.
The nature of Kendirian’s dispute with his alleged victims was unclear, Mercado said.
Kendirian is scheduled to appear in court for an arraignment hearing on the new charges Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court, officials said. He was being held in lieu of $1 million bail, records show.
PASADENA >> Firefighters quickly extinguished a grass fire along the 210 Freeway in Pasadena Friday, and authorities investigated reports the fire may have been intentionally set.
The fire broke out just after 2:10 p.m. along the eastbound 210 Freeway, just west of Madre Street, according to Pasadena Fire Department officials said California Highway Patrol logs.
Officials extinguished the flames within minutes, confining the fire to less than 50 square feet in size.
At least one witness reported seeing a man intentionally light the fire and walk away, according to CHP logs.
The possible arsonist was described as a white man wearing a white T-shirt and blue basketball shorts.
No suspects were in custody as the investigation continued Friday afternoon.
CULVER CITY >> Investigators offered a $5,000 reward and released video footage of a suspected arson sought in connection with a fire in a three-story business in Culver City over the weekend, officials said.
The arson fire erupted about 7:25 a.m. Saturday on the third floor of a commercial building at 11869 W. Teale Street, Los Angeles Fire officials said in written statement.
Firefighters battled the flames for about two hours declaring the fire extinguished, officials said. “Arson investigators have recovered security camera video footage that captures the suspect entering a room on the third floor of the subject building, set a set and fire,” the statement said. “(He) set a fire and left the building via the northwest staircase.”
A motive for the fire was yet to be established, LAFD officials added. Authorities declined to discuss exactly how the fire was set.
Officials described the suspect as a Black or Latino man of about 6 feet tall and 175 pounds. He had short, dark hair and has a discoloration mark on his right arm. He wore no shirt, with dark saggy jeans over blue boxer shorts.
The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives are teaming with LAFD officials in the investigation, and have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the arsonist.
A dollar-value estimate of the damage caused by the fire was not available.
Anyone with information is asked to contact LAFD Arson Investigator Sanchez at 213-503-1203, or 213-893-9850.
VIDEO, PHOTOS courtesy of the Los Angeles Fire Department
ARCADIA >> Police jailed a convicted arsonist Saturday after allegedly catching him trying to set a fire on the grounds of the U.S. Forest Service Headquarters facility in Arcadia, officials said.
Ronald Steven Watson, 59, of Sierra Madre was arrested shortly after 7:30 a.m. at the facility, 701 N. Santa Anita Ave., according to Arcadia police officials and Los Angeles County booking records.
Police encountered Watson after responding to a report of a suspicious person at the site.
“Officers contacted a subject who had matches in his pocket and had gathered kindling, twigs, and sticks and stacked them underneath a large tree to start a fire,” Arcadia police Lt. Colleen Flores said in a written statement.
Temperatures in the area rose well above 100 degrees Saturday, with single digit relative humidity levels. Hundreds of firefighters battled the Cabin Fire in the Angeles National Forest north of the San Gabriel Valley, which had already scorched thousands of acres and several structures.
Police booked Watson on suspicion of attempted arson, she added.
Watson, who is already on parole for a previous arson conviction, was being held without bail pending his initial court appearance, record show. He was scheduled to appear Tuesday in Pasadena Superior Court.
PHOTO of Ronald Watson, 59, of Sierra Madre courtesy of the Arcadia Police Department.
POMONA >> A West Covina man received an eight-year prison sentenced Friday after admitting an arson spree targeting six San Gabriel Valley businesses late last year and early this year, officials said.
During what was scheduled to be a pretrial hearing in Pomona Superior Court, David Lin, 43, pleaded “no contest” Friday to five counts of arson of property and one count of arson of an inhabited structure, according to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Sarah Ardalani. The outcome was the result of a negotiated plea arrangement.
Judge Salvatore Sirna sentenced Lin to eight years in state prison and ordered him to register as an arson offender for life, officials said.
Lin was arrested Feb. 3 after investigators linked him to a series of seven arson fires that ignited primarily inside the bathrooms of San Gabriel Valley businesses since December, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Sgt. John Hanson said at the time. No one was injured in the fires, at least one of which caused thousands of dollars worth of damage.
The fires were reported in December at the Guppy House restaurant in Hacienda Heights, as well as the Rolling Wok restaurant in Rowland Heights.
Two more similar fires broke out in January at L & L Hawaiian Barbecue in Walnut and at Office Depot in Rowland Heights, investigators said. The final three fires were reported the day of Lin’s arrest at a McDonalds, a Del Taco and Ten Ren’s Tea Time, all in Rowland Heights.
A motive for the bizarre crime spree was not clear, prosecutors said. Officials described Lin as a former West Covina resident who had been living in his car at the time of the arsons.
PHOTO of Davin Lin courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
GLENDORA >> A man was behind bars Wednesday in connection with three small hillside fires that burned less than an acre and near a church, according to police.
David Firestine, 33, was ultimately jailed on suspicion of arson, Glendora police Sgt. Chris Stabio said.
Lt. Matt Williams said a motorcycle officer spotted smoke at 9:13 a.m. Police also received several 9-1-1 calls reporting the fires.
One fire was on a hillside in the 7000 block of North Ben Lomond Avenue, Williams said. The second spot fire was north of the Church of the Open Door at 701 W. Sierra Madre Avenue. The third fire was close to other two.
An estimated 75 firefighters extinguished the fires at about 9:45 a.m.
Police searched the area well into the afternoon, ultimately finding and arresting Firestine in connection with the crime, police said. A motive was not available late Wednesday.
Police said the suspect had thrown rocks at a delivery truck, as well as thrown a cigarette and made obscene gestures to firefighters responding to the fires.
According to county booking records, Firestine was being held in lieu of $75,000 bail pending his initial court appearance, scheduled Friday in West Covina Superior Court.
Anyone with information is asked to call Glendora Police at 626-914-8250.