Home Surveillance Video Shows Calif. Arsonist

ESCONDIDO, Calif. --

Home surveillance video obtained by 10News revealed a serial arsonist at work in Escondido.

Detectives said the arsonist has a distinct pattern: the arsonist scouts for homes with cypress trees and then sets the trees on fire between 1:00 a.m. and 4:30 a.m. The latest fire on Fig Street near Washington Avenue on Nov. 3 caused $300,000 worth of damage to two neighboring residential properties.

Escondido firefighters believe the man is behind seven to nine fires since August 2009. Investigators said the man has sparked five recent fires in the past four months, including the one on Fig Street.

"That's starting to ramp up a little bit, so it's a little bit concerning for us," said Escondido Police Lt. Craig Carter.

Home surveillance video shows a man walking up to cypress trees on Fig Street. Using a red canister, he douses the trees with a flammable liquid and then lights it. Within seconds, the flames are out of control.

"But even the cypress trees themselves are often by houses people sleep in; they don't hear the noise or smell the smoke," said Carter.

Dave Copeland said that is exactly what happened to him.

"I opened the door and it sounded like rushing water," he said.

It was Copeland's surveillance cameras that captured the first picture of the serial arsonist and the Good Samaritans who likely saved Copeland's life by banging on his door and window until he woke up and got out.

Carter said the next family may not be as fortunate.

"We don't want him to go to the next level, which we hope is not lighting a house on fire," he said. "At this point we don't have any injuries and we'd like to keep it that way."

Carter doesn't have a good description of the suspect because the image is dark and grainy but said the man is white or Hispanic.

Anyone with any information is asked to call CrimeStoppers at (888) 580-8477.

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