OCFA investigators used tip from media to identify alleged arsonist
By Allison Jarrell
A 17-year-old has admitted to starting the June 15 brush fire in San Juan Capistrano that scorched 70 acres between Golden Lantern and Camino Capistrano, according to Orange County Fire Authority Capt. Larry Kurtz. The alleged arsonist told investigators that he set the fire with a cigarette lighter.
Kurtz said in a press release that news coverage of the fire generated a tip to the Orange County Register, which was then passed on to OCFA, resulting in the identification and eventual confession of the arsonist. The 17-year-old was released from custody to his mother.
“OCFA fire investigators are working with the Orange County District Attorney’s office to determine what specific charges will be filed against the juvenile,” Kurtz said in a statement.
“This is the second time in as many months that the news media played a vital role in helping our investigations division break an active arson case,” Kurtz said. “A lot of effort is put into the investigation of these incidents, and if not for the media’s help in bringing the public’s attention to these fires, it’s possible that the trail may have gone cold.”
The blaze didn’t occur during windy conditions, which meant it was slower to spread and easier to extinguish. Nevertheless, it took 135 firefighters to put the flames out Wednesday evening. No evacuations were issued and no homes were damaged as a result of the fire.