Arsonist on horseback in Chile

Chile arson
In this low-res screenshot from the video the rider gets on his horse after starting a fire. The white smoke is just to the right of the horse’s right-rear leg. It is slightly easier to see in the video.

This video, shot February 3, 2016, shows evidence of intentionally set wildfires in southern Chile. In addition to the pattern of ignitions for several fires that indicate the work of an arsonist, you can actually see a horseback rider igniting fires.

When the black and white images appear, it indicates the camera operator has switched from regular video to infrared, which detects heat. The white areas are the hottest.

In recent days there has been much discussion in Chile about the cause of some of the scores of blazes in the country. At least 43 people have been arrested for allegedly starting fires. More than 400,000 hectares (almost a million acres) have burned and 11 people have been killed, including 4 firefighters and one air tanker pilot.

Again, this video is from a year ago.

map Chile arson
The red pointer marks the location of one of the scenes in the video, southeast of Conception.

Two juveniles charged with starting fire that burned into Gatlinburg

The juveniles were taken into custody Wednesday after an interagency investigation.

Above: Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Incident Management Team photo.

On Wednesday two juveniles were charged with aggravated arson for starting the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. The fire resulted in the deaths of 14 people and damaged or destroyed 2,460 structures.

The juveniles were taken into custody after an investigation conducted by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, National Park Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and the Sevier County Sheriff’s Office.

Due to laws regulating the handling of juveniles, very little was disclosed about the two individuals, except that they do not live in Sevier County but are residents of the state of Tennessee.

Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, speaks at a news conference about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire, December 7, 2016.

Steve Kloster, Chief Ranger of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, said the phone line established to gather information proved to be valuable.

The public was critical in responding to that tip line and giving the investigators something to work with. The tip line had about 40 tips within just a few minutes of going online.

The fire was reported November 23 in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. By November 27 it had grown to 35 acres while being monitored by the National Park Service. A cold front brought very strong winds into the area on November 28 which caused the fire to spread explosively north into Gatlinburg, destroying lives, homes, businesses, and eventually 17,006 acres.

Below is a video of the press conference announcing the arrest.

For the most current information about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire at Gatlinburg, see our articles tagged “Chimney 2 Fire”.

Two men sentenced in California for starting fires

In recent days sentences were handed down in two unrelated California cases in which men were convicted of starting wildfires.

Cedar Fire

In the one with the biggest numbers, Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos, 29, a Mexican national, was sentenced to 13 months in prison and ordered to pay $61 million in restitution for damage caused by the Cedar Fire, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. The fire started August 16, 2016 northwest of Lake Isabella and burned 29,332 acres and 6 homes.

At his first court appearance on September 29 he entered a guilty plea for one count of causing a fire to burn in the forest and two counts of giving false information to a forest officer and was sentenced that day.

As he was driving on a dirt road, Mr. Garcia’s car got stuck while attempting to drive over a berm and rolled back hitting a tree. The muffler and catalytic converter of the vehicle were in direct contact with dead grass and started the Cedar Fire.

Series of fires in San Diego County

In the other case, Jonathan Cohen, 45, was sentenced to nine years and four months in prison. He was convicted of setting a series of five small fires in eastern San Diego County in 2014 and 2015. Investigators suspected him of being responsible for dozens or even hundreds of other fires.

Below is an excerpt from an article in the San Diego Union-Tribune.

None of the fires grew large, but investigators — who had suspected Cohen of being an arsonist for more than a year before his arrest — called him one of the most dangerous people in the county because of the catastrophic consequences his actions might have caused.

The prosecutor told the jury during the trial that Cohen would go to the Barona Resort & Casino in Lakeside and the Valley View Casino & Hotel in Valley Center to gamble, then start fires on his way home to Poway.

Surveillance cameras that were set up in the areas where the fires were occurring recorded Mr. Cohen’s vehicle passing by within minutes of a fire starting.

Tribal fire chief set fires the department was paid to fight

The former chief of the Kickapoo Tribal Volunteer Fire Department in Kansas was indicted Wednesday on federal charges of setting fires the tribe was paid to fight, Acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall said. Also indicted was a former volunteer firefighter.

Stephen D. Ramirez, 26, of Horton, Kansas, former chief, and Arlene M. Negonsott, 34, also of Horton, Kansas, are charged with four counts of wire fraud. The indictment alleges Ramirez recruited Negonsott, a volunteer firefighter, to set fires on the Kickapoo Reservation from July to November 2015 that the Kickapoo fire department was called to fight.

The Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas contracted with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to provide fire suppression services on the reservation. The contract called for the bureau to pay the tribe $600 for each fire it fought. The indictment alleges the defendants set six fires on the reservation.

If convicted, the defendants face up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine up to $250,000 on each count. The U.S. Department of Interior – Office of Inspector General, the Kickapoo Tribal Police and the FBI investigated.

Man arrested for starting the Clayton Fire and numerous others

(Originally published at 8:55 p.m. PDT August 15, 2016. Updated at 7:46 a.m. PDT August 16 with a list of charges against him and an updated mug shot.)

Damin Anthony Pashilk
Damin Anthony Pashilk

A man has been arrested for starting the Clayton Fire and numerous others.

Below is an excerpt from an article in The San Francisco Chronicle:

County officials arrested a 40-year-old Clear Lake man Monday on 17 counts of arson related to numerous fires set over the last year, including the 4,000-acre Clayton Fire that has so far claimed 175 buildings and displaced hundreds of people.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin and Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott announced the arrest of Damin Pashilk at a community meeting packed with evacuees at a casino doubling as a Red Cross shelter south of the blaze. Residents gasped at the announcement.

Chief Pimlott said Mr. Pashilk had been under investigation for about a year. The charges were enhanced because homes and businesses were destroyed. He has been arrested at least a dozen times before mostly for parole violations, but also on drug and weapons charges.

He was arrested at 4:30 p.m. on August 15 and booked into jail at 12:58 am. August 16. For now he has been charged with:

  1. Arson: structure/forest land
  2. Arson sentence enhancement
  3. Aggravated arson with prior

The sentence enhancement is applicable if homes or businesses were destroyed.

Brian Hickey of KCRA News reports that “aggravated arson with prior” means he has been convicted of arson in the last 10 years.

Bail has been set at $5 million.

The Clayton Fire started Saturday evening and around mid-day on Sunday changed direction after the wind shifted and spread quickly into Lower Lake, California.