Arsonist arrested after setting two fires a week apart in Half Moon Bay

- 39 year-old Monica Louise Berlin of El Granada was arrested Friday following a brief police pursuit from Half Moon Bay to Atherton. She's accused of setting two fires one week apart in the coastal town of Half Moon Bay.

On Tuesday, June 26 just after 9:20 p.m., a fire was reported in a field along the southwest corner of Highway 1 and Seymour Avenue in Half Moon Bay. Arriving firefighters from the Coastside Fire Protection District, along with San Mateo County Sheriffs, discovered several bales of harvested hay on fire. 

The fire was extinguished, damaging or destroying approximately 900 bales of hay worth an estimated $10,800.

One week later on July 3, firefighters responded to the same field just before 10 p.m., and discovered a quick spreading fire burning several hay bales. The fire was extinguished, but damaged or destroyed an additional 765 bales of hay, worth $9,180.

Cal-Fire investigators determined both incidents were deliberate acts of arson. Due to the proximity to homes and weather conditions, investigators considered the fires to be a serious threat to public safety. Investigators spoke with witnesses and located evidence that identified the arson suspect as Monica Berlin of El Granada. 

After being unable to locate Berlin, an alert Sheriff's Deputy with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Department spotted the suspect's vehicle, a grey 2004 Volvo station wagon, driving south on Skyline Boulevard and initiated a traffic stop. Berlin failed to stop, leading police to southbound Interstate 280, then to eastbound Woodside Road in Redwood City.

The suspect posted a video to Facebook around this time. She can be heard saying that police were chasing her and she didn't do anything illegal. The suspect's Facebook profile was deleted Sunday, but KTVU obtained a copy of the live streamed video.

The pursuit ended with Berlin pulling over in the 300 block of Fletcher Drive in the town of Atherton. 

Berlin was booked into the San Mateo County Jail for two counts of arson, as well as outstanding arrest warrants from the City of San Francisco for unrelated charges. 

Anyone with information is asked to contact Sheriff's Detective Gordon Currie at (650) 363-4051 or email gcurrie@smcgov.org. You may also call the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office Anonymous Tip Line at (800) 547-2700.

Video courtesy of Mike Alifano.

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