Merced authorities need help catching an arsonist

MERCED, Calif.

Battalion Chief Tom McCall says the fires started in late February. Since then, there's been more than a dozen within about a mile stretch of the green belt in Fahrens Park near Black Rascal Creek.

McCall says they've been, "Small little grass fires, some trash and debris fires and brush type fires."

They're called "nuisance" fires when they don't do a whole lot of damage-but more than a dozen fires- and those nuisances are starting to add up.

McCall said, "We want to stop whosever is doing this before we have a really big problem."

He says-he's worried about what could happen-when the weather changes. "The problem here though is the potential for a great big fire with all the fuel loading when it dries out."

They've lucked out- at least thus far. The fires have been small and they've fought them quickly.

McCall explained, "Our main concern is for the public, we obviously want to stop the fires when they're small as you can tell there's great potential here when it does dry out and we don't want great property loss or injuries or deaths."

They blame arsonists as there's no reason for accidental fires to spark in that area now, the just need to catch them before the weather sparks a larger concern.

Investigators have some good leads, but they hope you can help. If you have any information or if you saw anything, call the Merced Fire Department's arson tip line at (209) 388-8822, or the Merced Police Department's automated tip line at (209) 385-4725.

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