Man arrested, suspected of starting several fires along California highway, Cal Fire says

Shasta County sheriff's officials spotted Cole Rainwater "in attendance of an illegal fire" along the highway; Rainwater is now suspected in several vegetation


Rosalio Ahumada
The Sacramento Bee

SHASTA COUNTY, Calif. — Authorities have arrested a man suspected of starting a series of vegetation fires over the past few months along Highway 299 in Shasta County, Cal Fire officials announced Thursday afternoon.

Shasta County sheriff's officials on May 7 spotted Cole Rainwater "in attendance of an illegal fire" along the highway in Johnson Park, according to a news release from the Cal Fire Shasta-Trinity Unit. Rainwater was subsequently arrested on suspicion of one count of arson.

During his arrest, investigators recovered evidence that linked him to several vegetation fires in the Burney and Johnson Park areas since March, Cal Fire officials said. Rainwater, 24, is from Fall River Mills, a small town along Highway 299 about 16 miles northeast of Burney.

Since March, Cal Fire has extinguished several arson-caused small fires in the Burney area; the largest fire burned about two acres of vegetation. Cal Fire officials said each fire was in remote wooded areas and believed to have been started by a person walking through the area.

In late April, Cal Fire officials were then investigating two groups of suspicious small spot fires that burned vegetation along Highway 299 near Burney. Those fires were considered suspicious and a concern for firefighters because both groups of fires occurred within a few miles of each other.

At the time, Cal Fire spokeswoman Cheryl Buliavac said these type of fires are particularly concerning because there is already a lot of dry vegetation that provide enough fuel for a rapidly spreading wildfire.

Law enforcement officers with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection will be recommending to the Shasta County District Attorney's Office that Rainwater be charged with additional counts of arson, according to Thursday's news release.

Cal Fire officials said each count of arson Rainwater faces will include an enhancement since the California remains in a "state of emergency" under the threat of wildfires.

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(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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