The Fires Last Time, Part II (California Arson)

"At a news conference Thursday, federal and local investigators said they recovered evidence from a hollow where the Silverado Canyon wildfire started. They said they were confident the flames had been deliberately started with a form of 'liquid fuel.' ... " - "Arson evidence whips up anger," Chicago Tribune, October 28, 2007

One arson suspect won't have much to say, though, because the cops zipped him up for good:

California Police Shoot Dead Suspected Arsonist

Fred Attewill
Guardian Unlimited, October 25, 2007

Police have shot dead a man suspected of starting a fire in southern California amid growing concern that arsonists are responsible for some of the wildfires burning across the state.

The victim, a 27-year-old man from Arizona, had been spotted in scrubland near San Bernardino university campus on Tuesday evening. The area is on high alert after hundreds of homes were destroyed in the nearby mountains.

Armed university police tried to detain the man but he climbed into his car and drove off. He was chased up a track towards the foothills, where he was cornered. He was shot and killed when he reversed into a police car, authorities said. ...

Investigators believe at least two wildfires, including one in Orange county near Los Angeles, were started by arsonists. The FBI is investigating the blaze.

Three hours after the San Bernardino shooting, in the city of Hesperia, a man seen squatting by the roadside was arrested. Local police said the man, John Alfred Rund, 48, had just started a fire.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/usa/story/0,,2198866,00.html
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From the Cannonfire site:

Well, it's official: The recent fires in Southern California were caused by arson. I just heard Governor Schwarzenegger on the radio vowing to unleash hell on the evildoers.

Two men have been arrested on suspicion of arson, although no-one seems to think that they caused any major fires. One of the suspects is John A. Rund of Hesperia, a desert community near the San Bernardino mountains. In a previous post, I point out that this same fellow has been known to guide hikers through the areas devastated by the 2003 fires.

Tonight, an enigmatic -- and anonymous -- posting on Craigslist has come to my attention:

FBI just announced they arrested John Alfred Rund, 48, for arson in just one of the fires in Los Angeles. Rund is a known member of the National Socialist Movement and the Minutemen, both known terrorist organizations. The FBI also announced they are looking for multiple arsonist suspects in what is being called the largest terrorist plot to hit California to date.

Now, an unsigned Craigslist post is no-one's idea of a reliable news source. At least one fact is provably wrong: The FBI did not arrest Rund; he is being held by local cops in San Bernardino County. And I have never heard of a terrorist organization called "The National Socialist Movement."

Can anyone find another source for this "Minutemen" rumor? Right now, the allegation seems very unlikely. What motive would that group have to commit arson?

On the other hand, one must recall this earlier story about the strange individuals who were spying on various northern California fire stations.

That account does seem to hint at the work of a larger organization -- although, once again, the question of motive baffles. Why would arsonists videotape fire stations? ...
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Who was Spying on California Fire Stations Last Month?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

As I write, flames have charred much of my state. I haven't been directly affected, but people I know have been forced to evacuate. A friend's sister may have lost her home.

Fire officials now seem confident that the Orange County fire was an act of arson; other blazes may have a similar origin. The National Terror Alert Response Center cautiously discusses the possibility that the arsonists were terrorists.

One month ago, California Fire News published a fascinating story about suspicious activity around fire stations in Northern California:
During the last week of July, fire officials in the Bay Area city of Campbell reported that two men had been seen videotaping routine activities at a fire station.

The men were reportedly in their 20s or early 30s, and one was using a sophisticated news media-style camera.

When firefighters attempted to talk with the men, they reportedly jumped into a waiting car and sped off.

The incident prompted the Sacramento Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center to send out a request for Northern California fire stations to watch for similar incidents, and report them immediately.

The day the request went out, Sept. 6, a second, similar incident was reported at a fire station in Yuba City.

According to officials, a fire captain encountered two men parked outside the city’s main fire station. One of the men got out and allegedly began taking pictures of the fire station’s administration building. When the captain approached the men, to tell them they were in a no-parking zone, the photographer jumped in the vehicle and the men left.

The man who took the photos was described as being between 30 and 40 years of age.

On Sept. 12, Fresno Fire Department officials spotted two men in a vehicle allegedly observing activities at a fire training center. When questioned, the driver reportedly said they were just checking things out, then left immediately.

Two days later, on Sept. 14, personnel from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department noticed two men taking photos of a fire station. A third man sat in the back of a car, and appeared to be drawing or taking notes. When fire officials walked toward them, the two taking pictures jumped in the vehicle and sped away.

The men allegedly took pictures in front of the station, and in the rear. They ranged in age from late teens to about 60, officials recalled.

Did similar incidents occur in the southern part of the state? What useful info could an organized team of arsonists possibly gain from stake-outs of this sort? Why haven't the major media fastened onto this story?

I would note that the above paragraphs do not describe the suspicious men as being of Middle Eastern appearance.

Of course, I do not wish to engage in sensationalism. But we should not be afraid to discuss all possibilities.

Suspicious Activity At California Fire Stations

September 20, 2007

During the last week of July, fire officials in the Bay Area city of Campbell reported that two men had been seen videotaping routine activities at a fire station.

The men were reportedly in their 20s or early 30s, and one was using a sophisticated news media-style camera.

When firefighters attempted to talk with the men, they reportedly jumped into a waiting car and sped off.

The incident prompted the Sacramento Regional Terrorism Threat Assessment Center to send out a request for Northern California fire stations to watch for similar incidents, and report them immediately.

The day the request went out, Sept. 6, a second, similar incident was reported at a fire station in Yuba City.

According to officials, a fire captain encountered two men parked outside the city’s main fire station. One of the men got out and allegedly began taking pictures of the fire station’s administration building. When the captain approached the men, to tell them they were in a no-parking zone, the photographer jumped in the vehicle and the men left.

The man who took the photos was described as being between 30 and 40 years of age.

On Sept. 12, Fresno Fire Department officials spotted two men in a vehicle allegedly observing activities at a fire training center. When questioned, the driver reportedly said they were just checking things out, then left immediately.

Two days later, on Sept. 14, personnel from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department noticed two men taking photos of a fire station. A third man sat in the back of a car, and appeared to be drawing or taking notes. When fire officials walked toward them, the two taking pictures jumped in the vehicle and sped away.

The men allegedly took pictures in front of the station, and in the rear. They ranged in age from late teens to about 60, officials recalled.

Tim Johnstone, a commander with the threat assessment center in Sacramento, said all of the incidents are being investigated, but there is no indication they might be related.

“We aren’t considering this a specific threat at this time; we’re just asking our public safety partners to be on the watch for suspicious activity,” he said.

He said the threat assessment center was formed to act as a collection point for homeland security intelligence, and disseminate it appropriately.

Jay Alan, deputy director of communication for the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is concerned about security agencies sharing information, and has made it a top priority.

Local officials said no suspicious incidents involving videotaping or photos have been reported at fire stations.

Fire department personnel are being asked to take note of vehicle descriptions, descriptions of suspicious subjects, and complete license plate numbers. Citizens who witness suspicious activity, near fire stations or elsewhere, should do the same, and report it to their local law enforcement agency.

Citizens should not attempt to contact suspicious individuals.

http://calfire.blogspot.com/2007/09/terror-watch-at-calif-fire-stations.html
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MEANWHILE, IN THE EAST, FAR FROM THE INCENDIARY CITY OF LOST ANGELS ...

Two Firefighters Accused of Arson

New York Times
October 29, 2007

Two off-duty New York City firefighters were arrested last night on charges of spreading and igniting flammable fluid outside a Manhattan firehouse early Saturday, Fire Department officials said.

A firefighter inside the firehouse, in the Clinton neighborhood, noticed smoke seeping in from the main garage door and alerted colleagues, and they quickly extinguished the blaze, the officials said. No one was injured and the door appeared to be operable last night, though much of its exterior was blackened.

The two suspects, Michael Izzo, 30, of Staten Island and Richard Capece, 31, of Brooklyn, who were stationed at other fire companies, surrendered yesterday. They were charged with arson, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief, all felonies. The motive was unclear, law enforcement officials said.

Firefighter Izzo is a six-year veteran of the department assigned to Engine 242 in Brooklyn, and Firefighter Capece is a five-year veteran currently assigned to Engine 1 in Manhattan.

The fire was set at 2:15 a.m. at the firehouse of Engine Company 34 and Ladder Company 21 at 440 West 38th Street, the department said. The episode was taped by a surveillance camera, the officials said.

Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta called the crime "an outrageous, depraved act" and said that if convicted, the suspects would be terminated. For now, the two men are suspended from duty without pay.

The Uniformed Firefighters Association, the union that represents firefighters, did not immediately return a call seeking comment last night.

Arson: California Fire Reward Now $250,000, Five Arrested

By Brenda Jones
National Ledger, Oct 26, 2007

The reward for helping capture and convict arson suspects that intentionally set some of the fires in California has now been increased to $250,000. The California fires destroyed an estimated 1,800 homes, causing well over 1 billion dollars of damage and burning 461,000 acres across drought-ravaged southern California from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara.

Wildfires have burned about 753 square miles and destroyed about 1,800 homes throughout the region, causing at least three deaths from flames. Two of the fires, in Orange and Riverside counties, are believe to be the work of arsonists. ...

http://www.nationalledger.com/cgi-bin/artman/exec/view.cgi?archive=18&num=16895