Authorities suspect arson for Highway 41 fires

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The flames burned a mile long in an area between Shields and McKinley Avenues yesterday, threatening homes and backing up traffic. (KFSN)

Fire investigators believe fires along Highway 41 Thursday were deliberately set.

The flames burned a mile long in an area between Shields and McKinley Avenues, threatening homes and backing up traffic.

The fires along highway 41 spread through dry grass and weeds and threatened homes below the freeway. Smoke from the fires stalled traffic and Fresno Fire Investigator Don MacAlpine thinks an arsonist is at work.

"I do believe this are willful and malicious," he said. "Someone is not wanting to be an appropriate citizen."

MacAlpine also believes fires set two weeks ago along highway 99, 180 and 168 were deliberately set. He's asking drivers to keep an eye out for suspicious vehicles alongside the roadway.

"What I would ask people to be on the lookout for is any car stopped along the shoulder," he said. "Safely call 911 and give as much descriptive information as possible about you saw."

The fires spread so quickly because of the tall weeds and dry grass along the roadway.

City Council Member Clint Olivier lives near where the fires burned and helped neighbors fight the flames with their garden hoses.

"There's no reason we should have a situation like this," Olivier said. "And there's no reason why the people who live along the 41 should live in fear."

CalTrans has immediate plans to deal with the problems.

"Beginning next week we will be bringing in additional mowers to tackle some of the grass and weeds along the state highways," Cory Burkarth with Caltrans said. In addition we will have some parolees from the state department of corrections,they will be assisting us with hand tools with some of the taller grass and taller weeds that our mowers can't access.

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