Juvenile arrested for 13 arson fires

Cal Fire investigators arrested a 15-year-old Yosemite High School student for allegedly intentionally starting 13 fires in the Oakhurst area over the past several months. The juvenile was arrested last Friday.

Prior to his arrest, three Cal Fire law enforcement officials served a warrant at the juvenile’s home. Fire investigators had installed video cameras on John West Road and Jean Road West during the investigation, and had the boy’s home under surveillance for a number of days prior to his arrest.

The 13 fires were all suppressed relatively quickly and no structures were destroyed or damaged by any of the fires, although the fires had residents in the area on edge.Norm Hill and his wife Robbie live on Jean West Road where they experienced six nearby fires between July and September.

“Thank God this person has been arrested,” Norm said. “We can’t thank Cal Fire enought. They have been totally professional through this whole ordeal.”Due to his age, the name of the suspect was not released. The Madera County Public Defender’s office is representing the juvenile.

Cause of Courtney Fire

The accidental cause of the Sept. 14 Courtney Fire that destroyed 30 Bass Lake Heights homes was an area resident setting fire to burn deer remains when the fire quickly spread to nearby dry vegetation. Cal Fire investigators and the Madera County Sheriff’s Department have not released the name of the individual.

The fire burned 320 acres as it quickly travelled north and up a ridge to Crane Valley Road (426), jumped the road into the Bass Lake Heights subdivision and continued north-west, burning to the edge of Bass Lake.The cost of suppressing the fire and the loss of homes and 28 garages and storage sheds (and contents), 17 vehicles, and damage to other homes has been estimated at well over $12 million.

According to Cal Fire, 650 firefighters and 100 fire engines from throughout the state, along with six helicopters, four airtankers,10 bulldozers, and 13 water tenders fought the blaze that took five days to bring to full containment.

Road 426/223, the main artery between Oakhurst and North Fork, was closed to public traffic for five days.