Alleged arsonist arraigned, bail raised to $550,000

Michael Lee Lapschies of Fresno was arraigned on eight felony counts of arson and one felony count of making criminal threats Friday afternoon in Madera County Superior Court.

District Attorney David Linn appeared for the prosecution and Lapschies was assigned a public defender.

At least eight fires, all allegedly started by Lapschies, were located in the Bass Lake area over a span of a few hours Wednesday: on Road 222 near Pettitt Road; on Road 222 near Miller’s Landing Resort; and on Road 223, near Road 426.

Lapschies was detained for questioning shortly after the fires, then booked into Madera County Jail around 8:10 p.m Wednesday.

Lapschies, 40 and a former resident of Coarsegold, allegedly started the blazes for as-yet-unspecified reasons. No major damages were reported from any of the fires, which were quickly contained and suppressed by firefighters.

Presiding Judge Ernest LiCalsi increased bail for Lapschies to $550,000 from $75,000 Thursday. LiCalsi also ordered that a pre-preliminary hearing and bail review be held 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 6 in the Sierra Division of county court, located in Bass Lake.

A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Oct. 15 in the Bass Lake court.

Linn stated that the bail amount of $550,000 was very appropriate in a crime of this magnitude.

“He’s not going anywhere,” said Linn, who thanked authorities for bringing in Lapschies quickly after the fires were sparked.

Also present at the arraignment was Cal Fire Battalion Chief Bernie Quinn.

Staff report