Arrest made after string of arson fires set in Hollister

One man has been arrested after a series of arson fires in downtown Hollister and federal investigators are assisting in the case.

Fire investigators spent Election Day combing through more than half a dozen charred businesses.

Officials say five separate fires were intentionally set within a 2-mile radius during a 40-minute time frame early Monday morning.

"We had two, three, four active incidents simultaneously happening and it depleted our resources right away," said Charlie Bedolla, Hollister's fire marshall.

Local firefighters requested mutual aid from agencies including the Santa Cruz Fire Department and Cal Fire.

The first call came in for a vehicle fire around 1:55 a.m, followed by another car on fire reported at 2:12 a.m and a fence on fire at the same time.

At 2:13 a.m., authorities discovered Cheng Sheng Chinese Restaurant on fire and then She's Consignment Store and Gifts in flames at 2:35 a.m.

The businesses are about a block from each other off East Street. The heat was so intense, a street sign on Sixth Street melted.

"The flames were so intense that there was no need for any exterior lights because it was like daytime on both businesses," said Hollister Fire Chief Bob Martin del Campo.

The buildings housing the restaurant and consignment shop each collapsed with four other businesses inside, making for a total of 10 businesses damaged or destroyed.

Monday, Hollister police announced the arrest of 21-year-old David Anthony Pequeno who has been booked at the San Benito County Jail on four counts of felony arson. His bail was set at 1-million dollars.

Security cameras are helping in the investigation.

Investigators say they noticed the same car at least two of the fires.

"We do have video surveillance of the incidents but now we're just confirming the video surveillance by finding the origin and the cause of it," said Bedolla.

Almost two dozen fire and law enforcement agencies are assisting in the investigation including the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms.

"They're trying to get accelerant dogs out here to sniff out and see if the suspect was using some kind of fuel," said Martin del Campo.

He says this marks the fourth arson arrest this year, when normally there are none.

Police say at this point, there is no indication the latest arson fires are politically motivated or related to the election.