Station Fire was arson

At 6 pm tonight, the LA Times is reporting that the Station Fire was caused by an act of arson. Ken left a comment in my last post alerting me to this report. Thanks, Ken. The LA Times reports:

September 3, 2009 | 5:53 pm

The Station fire has been classified as an arson fire, and authorities have launched a homicide investigation.

The massive blaze, which killed two firefighters, has been under investigation for days, with the focus being on a road turnout along Angeles Crest Highway north of La Cañada Flintridge.

“Forensic examination has led this team effort to conclude … that it was an act of arson,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Steve Whitmore.

The Station fire, which has burned about 144,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest, is the largest fire in L.A. County history. Two firefighters died Sunday during a rescue effort, when their vehicle plunged down a mountain.

On Wednesday, investigators hunched under a scorched, 20-foot-tall oak tree off Angeles Crest Highway, using wire mesh sifters to search through the ash in an attempt to determine whether the Station fire was deliberately set.

Near Mile Marker 29, authorities were treating the fire’s suspected ignition site as a crime scene. Yellow tape cordoned off the area and authorities blocked the highway, turning away even Caltrans workers and earthmovers. Members of the bomb squad also arrived at the scene but officials declined to say what their role was in the probe.

“We believe it is the point of origin,” Los Angeles County Fire Capt. Mike McCormick said Wednesday. “They are doing a finely detailed, serious, serious search and investigation. We lost two firefighters in this.”

I was hoping for an accidental start, not arson. It is such a difficult crime for me to understand, frankly, and I’ve dealt with them all in my career as a criminal defense attorney. Only once did I have to defend someone who purposefully started a fire, and in that case, my client set fire to a cat. Pretty horrific and difficult to understand then, too.