No arrest yet in Station fire

Investigators have concluded that the 160,000-acre Station fire near Los Angeles was arson, but in spite of arresting someone for starting a small fire in the same area, they have not charged anyone starting the fire that was the largest in the recorded history of Los Angeles County.

Here is an excerpt from an article in the Los Angeles Times:

Nearly three months after the Station wildfire turned into the biggest blaze in L.A. County history, killing two firefighters, investigators say they don’t have the necessary evidence to arrest anyone for the arson.

Babatunsin Olukunle
Babatunsin Olukunle

Sheriff’s homicide detectives have questioned a man charged with setting a smaller blaze less than a week before in Angeles National Forest. But authorities say they have not been able to connect Babatunsin Olukunle, a 25-year-old Nigerian national, to the 160,577-acre Station fire that began Aug. 26 in a turnout near Mile Marker 29 above La Cañada Flintridge, authorities say.

“He has told us nothing of relevance in connection with the Station fire,” said Sheriff’s Lt. Liam Gallagher, who is leading the homicide probe. “We’ve talked to him and we’d like to talk to him again.”

Nationally, only about 10% of arson fires yield charges .The task is made all the more difficult in arson wildfires because unlike structural fires there is no confined space.

Arson wildfires are among the most difficult homicide cases to prove, especially when there is a lack of eyewitnesses in an area and point of origin has been repeatedly burned over during by the fire, Gallagher said.

Gallagher said Olukunle was charged last month with setting the Lady Bug Fire and was sent to Patton General Hospital, a state mental health facility, for an evaluation. Olukunle, a one-time UC Davis student who became a transient, was “articulate” during an interview but of little help, Gallagher said.

Olukunle has pleaded not guilty to setting the earlier fire in a forest. Detectives won’t even call him a person of interest anymore in the Station fire.

“We don’t label people,” Gallagher said.

Investigators know that a substance helped ignite the fire, according to sources familiar with the investigation. They have repeatedly combed the grid around the fire’s point of origin looking for markings or other clues to the human cause of the blaze.

“Basically we have nothing at this point. We have run down all our leads,” Gallagher said.

The fire became a double homicide Aug. 30 when County Fire Capt. Tedmund “Ted” Hall, 47, and firefighter specialist “Arnaldo “Arnie” Quinones, 35, died when their vehicle careened off a road south of Acton, plunging some 800 feet into a ravine.

Thanks Dick

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.