Oscar Bustillos, 49, of Apple Valley, the man who allegedly started the Sept. 14 Courtney Fire, appeared before Madera County Superior Court Judge Joseph Soldani for a preliminary hearing Feb. 20. He is charged with one count of felony arson, for causing fire to inhabited structure/property (this includes an address list of the 30 homes destroyed), and two misdemeanor counts, one for unlawfully causing a fire, and the other for unlawful burning.
At his Nov. 25 arraignment, Bustillos pleaded not guilty to all counts. According to Cal Fire investigators, Bustillos set fire to a deer carcass to destroy it, resulting in a grass fire that quickly spread from Courtney Lane off Crane Valley Road (426), up a ravine to Bass Lake Heights, destroying 30 homes.
Bustillos, a non-English speaker, is represented by Public Defender Kevin Weimer of Ciummo & Associates, a Madera law firm that contracts with the county for legal services. Supervising Deputy District Attorney Sally Moreno is the prosecutor in the case.
According to Craig Collins, another attorney with Ciummo & Associates, Bustillos was working on an Oakhurst ranch at the time of the fire, and called Bustillos’ actions “an accident.”
The estimated property loss was more than $12 million, and a Cal Fire spokesperson said it cost $4.4 million to suppress the fire.
Bustillos will be arraigned on March 6.