Crime - Sacto 911

Man accused in Clayton Fire pleads not guilty – charged in 4 more blazes

Lake County prosecutors added new arson charges against the man accused of setting August’s devastating Clayton Fire, tying him to four more blazes in an amended 23-count complaint filed this week.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection investigators who have been working the case against Damin Anthony Pashilk last summer linked the construction worker and career criminal to an Aug. 8, 2015, blaze on Lake County forestland and three others on July 26, 27, and 29 of this year, Richard Hinchcliff, Lake County chief deputy district attorney, said Thursday.

Pashilk entered not guilty pleas Wednesday to 19 felony arson and attempted arson charges along with misdemeanor drug and vehicle charges connected to Aug. 13’s Clayton Fire and more than a dozen others set since July 2015. Pashilk will return to court Oct. 25 for further proceedings and a possible setting of a preliminary hearing date, Hinchcliff said.

The Clayton Fire blackened 4,000 acres, destroyed 175 homes, forced thousands to flee and caused about $7 million in damage.

Reporters swarmed the Lake County Courthouse in Lakeport for Pashilk’s Aug. 17 arraignment, packing a courtroom as Pashilk ducked from the view of cameras. At a news conference following the hearing, a Cal Fire investigator described Pashilk as a “serial arsonist,” saying fire investigators were confident they had their man.

Pashilk has a criminal record that stretches back two decades including felony drug convictions in 2000 and 2006 and more recent misdemeanor vehicle code violations in 2012 and in March of this year for driving with a suspended license.

Cal Fire officials said Pashilk had received two months of fire training while imprisoned on drug and firearm charges, but never fought any fires.

Darrell Smith: 916-321-1040, @dvaughnsmith