Calif. man arrested for impersonating a firefighter

David Saleh drove into a "secured area" where firefighters had set up incident command for fighting the Farm Fire, and allegedly identified himself as a firefighter

Martin Estacio
Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.

Authorities arrested a Phelan man who they said impersonated a firefighter and pulled up to the scene of a wildfire in Hesperia in a vehicle with red lights.

David Saleh, 64, was taken into custody Wednesday and booked into the High Desert Detention Center on suspicion of a parole violation.

According to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department, Saleh breached a "secured area" near the intersection of Ranchero and Caliente Roads where firefighters and deputies had set up a command post for fighting the Farm Fire.

Saleh pulled up to the site with "red lights affixed to his vehicle," identified himself as a firefighter and was "wearing clothing with medical fire patches," sheriff's officials said.

Deputies reportedly found firefighting equipment inside his vehicle and learned he was not connected to any fire department.

Authorities said Saleh was on parole for robbery out of Florida. He was transferred to California, where had been living in Phelan.

Booking records show he remained in county jail as of Thursday on no bail.

The announcement of the arrest came as firefighters appear to have a handle on the quick-moving Farm Fire that ignited near Interstate 15 and initially threatened homes in Hesperia before charring more than 200 acres.

Cal Fire spokesperson Alison Hesterly said the Farm Fire, which started north of the Cajon Pass, stood at 250 acres and 90% containment as of Thursday morning.

No injuries or damage to homes were reported, she said.

Firefighter crews were working on "mop-up and line construction," the San Bernardino County Fire Department tweeted.

The blaze broke out in the area of Caliente and Verbena roads on the west side of the freeway. It quickly produced a column of light and dark smoke that could be seen in Apple Valley roughly 22 miles to the northeast based on photos sent to the Daily Press.

Strong 30-mph winds pushed the Farm Fire, which grew from a quarter of an acre to more than 100 acres in about an hour.

Fire officials reported a "critical rate of spread," meaning that the blaze was spreading about as fast as a running person.

About 40 homes lay in the fire's path as crews began protection of the structures, a county deputy fire chief said.

Both crews on the ground and air battled the blaze, with several aircraft making retardant drops.

Shortly before 5 p.m., Cal Fire said the forward rate of spread had stopped and later reported the threat to homes had been "mitigated."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.


(c)2021 Daily Press, Victorville, Calif.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service
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