Fresno fire investigators are tracking a serial arsonist

April 9, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
Fire investigators work to crack the case of a serial arsonist. They're close to identifying a suspect in a unique case involving eight fires that were intentionally set throughout Pinedale.

They say they have good leads and are working to collect the evidence they need, so they can prove their case in court.

Deputy Fire Marshall Don MacAlpine tells Action News, his team of investigators are 'responsible from ignition to conviction."

MacAlpine has been an investigator since 1999, and said, "When I started it was considered more of an art to be a fire investigator, now it's a science."

An exact, and complicated science. They find evidence in wreckage, and work to identify where and how fires start.

"We go into a fire investigation completely open eyed, we don't predetermine it's accidental as criminal, we go in there as objective as possible," explained MacAlpine.

He says there's nothing innocent about the Pinedale case. The string of arsons started with dumpster and trash fries last week, and ended with the burning of a vacant home.

MacAlpine added, "There's more unique indicators, as far as identifying a possible suspect or suspects."

Their clearance rate is good, when it comes to tracking suspects. The team has a 40% average, compared to the national clearance rate of 3%.

They recently named Christopher Rocca as a suspect in the bond market fire. Last month, surveillance video captured two people throwing what appear to be homemade fire bombs.

Investigators now have a warrant for Rocca's arrest.

Fire Investigator Christine Wilson said, "I enjoy the apprehension of suspects, putting people who hurt others or burn others people's property and getting them behind bars and a conviction."

And she says, it's only a matter of time before they track down the person, or people responsible for the fires in Pinedale.

Last year, the team had 410 fire investigations.171 of those were intentionally set, netting in 32 arrests. To date, there's 70 cases pending at the district attorney's office.


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