California Fire Officials Call Fire 'Suspicious'

"We have a fire of suspicious origin, no witnesses and no suspects," according to San Bernardino County Bomb and Arson investigator Steve Szydloski. "The fire did not start by itself and all of the damaged buildings were vacant."

The suspicious fire broke out last Saturday afternoon at 3:25 p.m., impacting two residential structures adjacent to two other units that burned last October in the 23000 block of Lake Drive.

"A huge column of smoke was visible as Engine 25 made its way down Lake Drive," Crest Forest Fire Engineer Carlos Corletto told the Crestline Courier-News. "As we arrived at the scene we spotted flames just starting to jump from the first unit to the second.

"No one was on the premises as we began knocking down the fire," Corletto explained. "However, there was evidence a transient may have been residing in the first apartment. We had a stubborn queen-sized mattress in one of the bedrooms and it took us about 20 minutes to contain the blaze."

Shortly after the incident began on Lake Drive, a call was received by dispatchers about a possible porta-potty fire in the 24000 block of Horst Drive. Engine 28, staged at 7-11 on Lake Drive, responded to the outhouse fire and quickly extinguished a small fire inside before returning to the structure fire in downtown Crestline.

A total of 27 personnel from the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino County Fire and Crest Forest battled the fire and kept the blaze from spreading to adjacent residential and commercial structures. The incident ended at 7 p.m.

Lake Drive was closed by the California Highway Patrol and San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department at Forest Shade Road and Stillwater Road during the incident. Utility companies responded but investigators report all power, gas and water had been shut off prior to the fire.

Corletto's news release issued after the fire indicated total damage is estimated at $200,000. The fire on Oct. 29 started about 4 a.m. and resulted in roughly $90,000 damage. In that incident, the commercial units on Lake Drive suffered some damage to the roof.

"Two of our newest firefighter/paramedics--Mike Calaway and Francisco Lerma--got a little trial by fire helping with the operation at the fire scene laying hose," Chief Michael Sherman stated. "Both men are former American Medical Response paramedic supervisors and had just returned from their fire academy training for hose lays. They both performed very well."

"Our investigation is continuing," Szydloski concluded.

Republished with permission of The Crestline Courier.