Arsonist on the loose after nine small fires in Santa Rosa

- An arsonist is on the loose in Sonoma County, but it's not the person authorities went after first.

Nine small fires were lit in a five minute span Sunday evening along Stony Point Road in Santa Rosa.
The fires ripped through dry grass, and threatened several homes, and immediately residents were buzzing about a suspicious red truck seen in the area.

"A neighbor saw a guy in a red truck throw fire out and it started a barn on fire," witness Gabby Tannlund told KTVU, from her home across the street.

Investigators thought that driver might be tossing fireworks, but tracked down the truck and impounded it.
They concluded the teenage driver had no malicious intent, but his truck may have been backfiring.
"He doesn't know anything, and we don't suspect he was an arsonist, we think he had a malfunctioning truck," explained Rincon Valley Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Joe Giordani.

Instead, surveillance video collected from homes and businesses over a seven mile stretch of road reveal a different person- an adult- stopping his car to set fires.

"He's getting out and he's lighting fires and he's getting back in his vehicle and he's leaving," described Chief Giordani, "and we spent most of the day gathering surveillance video and we have several films of him stopping to start fires."

Giordani declined to detail the vehicle or suspect description, but did say he may not be alone in the car, and there may be two people involved.

"It was very close, very scary, and I'm still kind of unnerved about it," Orion Jones told KTVU, as he surveyed his blackened front yard, where the first fire started.
Jones heard the loud explosions of car tires popping, and looked out to see ten foot flames in the grass, and a Mitsubishi sedan on fire.

"There were definitely flames covering our front gate, and it was locked so there was no way out, " he said.
Jones and a housemate grabbed garden hoses and did all they could to keep their house intact before fire crews arrived.

The flames crept to about two feet from the structure.

"If it's someone's idea of a prank, it's not funny to me," observed Jones, "because my house almost burned down with what little possessions I have."

CalFire send a helicopter to make water drops, and several different fire agencies responded.

It was still 94 degrees outside when the evening spree started.   

Besides the destroyed barn and car, a few other homes were threatened.

"Fires were roaring, you could feel it and hear it," recalled Tannlund.

She worried she might have to evacuate with her horses and other animals, but "I've got to say, in this little neighborhood right here, everybody was outside with hoses."

Giordani notes the wind was light in the area Sunday evening, or the outcome could have been much worse.


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