Suspected serial arsonist arrested in Calif.

He's accused of setting at least 30 vegetation fires since April; he was charged with eight counts of arson and has a $1 million bail.

By Henry K. Lee
The San Francisco Chronicle

BAY POINT,  Calif. — A serial arson suspect was arrested Wednesday for allegedly setting at least 30 vegetation fires in Contra Costa County.

James William Wilson, 29, was taken into custody in Bay Point and booked at County Jail in Martinez on eight counts of arson. His bail was set at $1 million.

Investigators noticed a pattern of grass fires beginning in April in Bay Point, authorities said. The fires soon spread to other parts of the county, prompting investigators to form a task force.

Wilson is believed to have set fires along Highway 4, Highway 24 and Marsh Creek Road, with fires affecting Orinda, Lafayette, Walnut Creek, Concord, Martinez, Pittsburg, Clayton and Brentwood, according to the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District.

Investigators had suspected a serial arsonist was on the loose but withheld information from the public so as not to jeopardize the case, authorities said.

"We needed to keep that secret, so that we could catch this person," said Fire Marshal Robert Marshall. "The one thing we didn't want was for them to go into hiding and feel that we were onto them, so we kept that a secret."

Investigator Vic Massenkoff agreed, saying authorities needed to ensure they had the right suspect before moving ahead with an arrest.

"If we were to approach them and just say, 'We know what you're up to, cut it out,' most serial arsonists are very impulsive or compulsive, and all they'll do is change the area, change their M.O. and continue," Massenkoff said.


(c)2015 the San Francisco Chronicle

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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