Last Wednesday, Colusa County Sheriff’s Sgt. Jose Ruiz was patrolling the town of Arbuckle when he observed a small grass fire burning on Sixth St., just north of Hall St.
Ruiz drove to the nearby Arbuckle Fire Department and notified Chief Casey Cox, who informed him that over the course of the last three summers, his department had responded to more than 30 suspicious grass fires in the same three-block radius of Arbuckle.
“We have had a lot of fires set within a few city blocks,” Cox said. “We have worked very hard to connect the dots.”
Cox said the fires extended north and south of Hall Street at Interstate 5.
“They were happening on both sides of the freeway, but mainly on the east side, in the downtown area,” he said.
The fires have been occurring in the central part of town, often behind fenced areas or behind walls, which Cox said put the department on alert.
“We would go and put the fires out, and then immediately start driving in a circle around the location,” Cox said. “We started seeing this guy who was always connected to the location, and always seemed to be around when we were putting out these grass fires. We did our due diligence, we kept notes, and we timed it out.”
Last Wednesday, Cox gave a description of the man he and his firefighters had observed over the past three summers to Ruiz, and the two of them began searching for him.
“Upon arrival, Chief Cox advised me of several other fires in the area where they observed an older Hispanic male wearing a hat with sunglasses. He advised me he also had a bad eye, which was very distinct,” Ruiz said. “They extinguished the fire, and we canvassed the area.”
It ended up being Cox who spotted the subject as he came out of a nearby restaurant. Ruiz arrived a short time later to make contact with Fermin Rodriguez Cadena, 62, of Arbuckle. After Ruiz conducted an investigation, Cadena allegedly confessed to starting last Wednesday’s fire, in addition to starting a fire about a year ago.
“Chief Cox located the subject in the general area… I spoke with him, and he admitted to starting that fire, and one other fire approximately a year prior, in the area of Fifth St. and Hall St,” Ruiz said. “A lighter and napkins were also discovered on his person… He advised me that he started the fire because it looked cleaner without the dry grass.”
Cadena was arrested on suspicion of arson, and booked into Colusa County Jail. His bail was set at $50,000. He was arraigned in the Colusa County Superior Court on a single felony charge of arson, and appointed a public defender, on May 11. He is set to appear today to enter a plea.
“We caught the guy, he was arrested on a felony. I’m proud that Sgt. Ruiz took the initiative and got the guy to admit to setting those two fires. If it wasn’t for the Sheriff’s Office, this wouldn’t have happened.” Cox said. ““The fire authority has a no-blink attitude on this kind of thing, because we recently came out of a drought and we’re now going into a huge fire threat with all of the tall fuels. We’re not going to tolerate it. We’re going to investigate every fire aggressively.”