Crime

Rash of SLO fires appears to be arson, police say

This area near the railroad tracks was burned in one of several small fires that were apparently intentionally set near Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014.
This area near the railroad tracks was burned in one of several small fires that were apparently intentionally set near Sinsheimer Park in San Luis Obispo on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014. jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

More than 40 small fires across the city in the past year appear to have been intentionally set and may be related, the San Luis Obispo Police Department announced Thursday.

Investigators are asking the public for help in identifying a suspect, and a local organization has offered a $1,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible.

Lt. John Bledsoe said that since October 2014, 41 small fires in the city have been identified as possible arson, with as many as six fires reported on a single day and within hours of each other.

Those fires were recorded all over San Luis Obispo — in remote areas near creeks, railroad tracks and open spaces, as well as in high-traffic residential neighborhoods, the downtown corridor and even behind the police station and California Highway Patrol headquarters.

Though most fires have been small and extinguished quickly, the Police Department said they have posed a serious public safety risk as well as the potential for serious damage to city and private property.

No one has been injured and no serious property damage was reported in any of the fires.

On May 5, the day with the most recorded suspicious fires, officials extinguished six small brush fires around the city between 6:15 p.m. and 10:12 p.m., Fire Marshal Roger Maggio has said. Many of the fires were sparked in areas with no obvious human activity, too far away to have been caused by utility equipment or a tossed cigarette butt, Maggio said.

Given the extreme drought conditions and the ongoing costs in time and resources that have gone into fighting and investigating the fires, the nonprofit tip line Crime Stoppers has offered the $1,000 reward with the help of private donations. Anyone with information is asked to call the organization at 549-STOP or submit a tip via slotips.org.

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