Dec. 18--A former wildland firefighter, accused of starting the two blazes that grew into the fatal Clover Fire in September, worked for the U.S. Forest Service more than seven years.
Zane Wallace Peterson, 29, who is being held without bail at Shasta County Jail, will be arraigned this afternoon in Shasta County Superior Court.
Brenda Kendrix, a spokeswoman for the forest service's Pacific Southwest Region, confirmed Peterson was employed by the federal agency from May 15, 2005 to Oct. 22, 2012 as a fire engine operator.
Reasons for his departure were unknown.
Records kept by the forest service show Peterson worked for the Mendocino National Forest, though it was not clear whether all his seven-plus years were at that location.
Peterson was arrested Tuesday on suspicion of murder, arson on forest lands, arson causing great bodily injury, and arson of inhabited dwellings in connection to the monstrous Sept. 9 fire.
The fast-moving fire destroyed homes off Cloverdale and Gas Point Roads near Happy Valley and Igo. Firefighters contained it within a week, but not before it claimed the life of Brian Henry, 56, torched 60 homes and 130 other buildings and scorched more than 8,000 acres.
Cal Fire spent about $7.3 million to extinguish the fire.
Peterson also was arrested on suspicion of starting six other fires between September and November of this year.
Scott McLean, a California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection captain, on Tuesday declined to elaborate on the evidence against Peterson or whether there are other suspects, citing the ongoing nature of the investigation.
Authorities also have not identified a motive.
McLean would not give information about the role a surveillance video provided by the Clear Creek Community Services District played in the investigation.
The camera was set up to watch out for water theft near a pump house next to two large water tanks at the intersection of Clear Creek Road and Cloverdale Road, close to where firefighters say the fire began.
If convicted, Peterson faces a 25 years-to-life sentence for the murder charge, and 90 years for the arson charges. Peterson is not listed as a registered arsonist, and he does not have a criminal history of fire-starting.
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