Home Fire News Homeless man arrested for starting at least 5 fires in California

Homeless man arrested for starting at least 5 fires in California

Firefighters douse flames near the 261 Toll Road and the 5 Freeway Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. Investigators believe this fire, and another reported less than two miles away and about two hours later, were intentionally set. Jose Antonio LozanoMartinez, 41, was seen in drone footage near the second fire that evening, and was arrested on suspicion of arson. (Photo courtesy of the Orange County Fire Authority)

Eric Licas and Alma Fausto

The Orange County Register

Feb. 26—Police have arrested a homeless man suspected of setting multiple fires to bushes along the 261 Toll Road in Irvine on Wednesday night. At least two of the five fires were less than a block from homes.

Firefighters with the Orange County Fire Authority first responded to reports of burning brush along the toll road near the 5 Freeway at about 6:22 p.m., Irvine Police said. They quickly extinguished the fire, which was initially deemed accidental.

But more flames were reported about two hours later and less than 1.5 miles away, near the toll road and Bryan Ave, police said. Officers deployed a drone while firefighters put out the second fire, and captured footage of what appeared to be a man igniting another near Irvine Boulevard.

He was seen squatting near an open flame amidst brush near the toll road and Irvine Boulevard in a video released by police Thursday. He then walked a short distance away from the fire, laid down in a patch of vegetation and covered himself in a blanket, IPD Sgt. Karie Davies said

Officers located him and took him into custody without incident, police said. He was identified as 41-year-old Jose Antonia LozanoMartinez, and described as a transient whose last known address was in Santa Ana, Davies said.

He was booked into the Orange County Jail on suspicion of arson. Further information about the fires or why Lozano-Martinez might have wanted to spark them was not immediately released.

Davies said he was not lighting the fires to stay warm.

A total of five fires burned in the area “in a relatively short amount of time,” Davies said. At least two of those fires were set less than a block away from homes, and could have grown out of hand due to Southern California’s nearly year-around fire danger conditions. Earlier this week, forecasters warned of strong winds that would be blowing in the region. Gusts along with warm, dry air is a recipe for wildfires.


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