Saturday, January 18, 2014


In California, in Canada, in Australia, fires incinerate great swaths of forest, destroy homes and farms, burn animals alive and kill brave firefighters who risk their lives going into the flames.
Many of those fires are set deliberately.
What kind of lunatic sets a forest fire deliberately?
What kind of sick, twisted mind gets pleasure from destroying life and beauty?
How many of the arsonists are actually caught?
What penalty could be great enough for such a hideous crime?
In the past, a trek into the forest was a spiritual, joyous experience. Like me, you might worry about snakes and crawly things, fear mosquitos - maybe a bear ! But, for the ecstasy of smelling the pines, listening to the birds and the bubbling streams, seeing a baby deer, wild flowers, and gazing in amazement at the night sky full of billions of bright stars and galaxies - for such delights and inspiration, many ventured forth.
Today, a visit to a forest is taking your life in your hands. Not because of the bugs, the bats or the bears, but because some lunatic might set flame to the trees and trap you in the holocaust.
Phyllis Carter
Shasta County firefighter Bob Baker mops up an area affected by the Clover Fire in Happy Valley, California September 10, 2013. REUTERS/Max Whittaker

SAN FRANCISCO - A former firefighter has been arrested and accused of intentionally setting a Northern California blaze that killed a 56-year-old man and destroyed dozens of homes in early September, authorities said on Wednesday.

Zane Peterson, 29, was taken into custody at his parents home on Tuesday on suspicion of murder and arson in connection with the so-called Clover Fire, Captain Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The Clover fire started in remote Shasta County on Sept. 9, blackened 8,000 acres (3,237 hectares), burned as many as 60 homes and took the life of 56-year-old Brian Henry. Some 130 non-residential structures were claimed by the fire.

"This is a significant arson arrest for CAL FIRE, Shasta County, and the residents who endured the Clover Fire and suffered losses," CAL FIRE Unit Chief Mike Hebrard said in a statement. "The tragic loss of life and so many homes at the hands of an intentional fire is a heinous act."

CAL FIRE led the three-month investigation of the Clover Fire.

More than 1,500 firefighters responded to the Clover Fire at the height of the incident, which cost $7.3 million to control, CAL FIRE said in a statement.

Peterson, who lived in the rural community of Happy Valley, where the fire began, is a former forestry technician and fire engine operator with the Mendocino National Forest, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Brenda Kendrix.

Peterson worked for the service between May 2005 and October 2012, Kendrix said.

In addition to the Clover Fire, Peterson is suspected of intentionally setting six vegetation fires in the late months of 2013, McLean said. He said the motive was unclear.

Peterson is scheduled to be arraigned at the Shasta County Superior Court on Wednesday, McLean said. He faces up to 25 years in prison for the murder charge and 90 years behind bars for multiple arson charges.

Laila Kearney, Reuters

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