By Mike Bodine
A series of small brush fires in the Bishop area over the weekend and past couple weeks have been attributed to arson. According to the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department, three residents linked to the crimes were taken into custody Sunday.
The suspects charged with alleged arson and conspiracy to commit arson are Thomas Stone, 18, Jared Manga, 18, and one 16-year-old juvenile, all three from Bishop. Bail for Stone and Manga has been set at $250,000.
Inyo County Sheriff’s Investigator Paul Baldwin said the investigation is still ongoing and could not give any additional details about the suspects.
Bishop Fire Chief Ray Seguine said Monday that local volunteers have responded to eight fires linked to the suspects. He said there have been other recent fires attributed to arson, but these burned themselves out and were never called in. Representatives from the Owens Valley Conservation Camp said that CalFire did respond and assist on some of the fires but details could not be obtained by press time Monday.
The fires, all under a quarter-acre, were located near or around the Bishop Paiute Reservation and the Bishop Creek Canal near the city limits. The largest fire was located east of Johnston Drive on Nov. 5. Seguine said the only property damage reported was a burned power pole on See Vee Lane from a blaze on Sunday.
However, the fires did cost money to fight. Seguine said Monday that he was currently doing the figures on the specifics, but estimated that each fire required at least six volunteers, a commander and at least two or three engines.
“These fires had the potential to cause major damage and potential loss of life, but the quick response by Bishop Fire and investigators avoided potential tragedy,” said Inyo County Sheriff Bill Lutze in a press release.
Inyo County sheriff’s deputies were assisted by the Bishop Police Department and the California Highway Patrol in apprehending the suspects. CalFire is leading the investigation, assisted by the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office.
The Sheriff’s Office is asking anyone with any information concerning these fires to call (760) 873-7887.