A 68-year-old Missouri man flew to California, rented a car, and drove around the winding roads of Santa Clara County, tossing flaming pieces of paper into the dust dry brush in the hills between Ed Levin Park and Calaveras Reservoir last weekend, starting at least 13 wildfires, police said, announcing his arrest.
The East Bay Times reported that Freddie Graham, of Lone Jack, Missouri, flew into San Jose last Thursday and started his arson tour on Friday, setting four fires. Cal Fire firefighters handled those with relative ease, but the nine more he set on Saturday took until Tuesday to extinguish.
A witness spotted Graham’s rental car near one of the fires, copied down the license, and reported it to Cal Fire. Police caught up with him at Mineta San Jose International Airport on Monday as he attempted to return the rental car and fly back to Missouri, according to 8NewsNow.
The fires, dubbed the Reservoir Fire by fire officials, scorched 128 acres — a small fire in treacherously dry California, but those dry conditions have created two consecutive years of devastating wildfires and prompted Gov Gavin Newsom to declare emergency status for this year’s fire season. Graham has been charged with 13 felony counts of arson of brushland and two counts of arson committed during a state of emergency. He’s being held on $500,000 bond.
Supervising Deputy District Attorney Bud Porter said that Graham faces 22 years in prison if he is convicted on all counts. Officials don’t know why he flew to California to start the fires, but the East Bay Times noted a Facebook page in the name of Fred Graham of Blue Springs, Missouri, about 15 miles from Lone Jack. That profile says the owner is from Milpitas, California, just west of the fires, and that he studied at San Jose State University. It isn’t clear, however, if the Facebook Fred Graham is the same as the Freddie Graham charged with arson.
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[Featured image: Reservoir Fire, Cal Fire]