Crime - Sacto 911

Man suspected of starting 2014 Shasta County blaze arrested in Indiana

A 2014 mug shot of Freddie Alexander Smoke III of Sacramento, who was arrested for allegedly igniting the Bully Fire.
A 2014 mug shot of Freddie Alexander Smoke III of Sacramento, who was arrested for allegedly igniting the Bully Fire.

The Sacramento man suspected of starting the 2014 Bully Fire that burned about 12,600 acres in Shasta County was arrested in Indiana on Tuesday, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 39, was taken into custody by local authorities after he was found in East Chicago, Ind., more than two years after posting bail for charges related to the Bully Fire, according to a Cal Fire news release. The fire started on July 11, 2014, and scorched 12,661 acres near the unincorporated community of Ono over 15 days.

Smoke was first arrested by Cal Fire law enforcement officers, who alleged he started the fire while transporting soil amendments to an illegal pot garden in Shasta County near Roaring Creek and Sargent roads. Authorities said Smoke did not consider that the hot exhaust pipe of his rental truck might ignite the dry grass in the area in which he was working.

Smoke was taken into custody and was charged with pot cultivation and recklessly starting a fire. He posted bail shortly after his arrest, according to Cal Fire.

When the body of a man identified as Jesus Arellano Garcia, 35, of Michoacan, Mexico, was found in the fire’s perimeter five days after Smoke’s arrest, the Shasta County District Attorney’s Office filed additional felony charges on July 22, 2014, including involuntary manslaughter. Authorities also issued a felony arrest warrant with a $1 million bail.

Authorities said that Smoke failed to appear in court to face the additional charges. Since then, Cal Fire and other local law enforcement agencies have pursued leads regarding Smoke’s whereabouts, Cal Fire said.

“A lot of time and energy has been invested into this investigation by many entities and we look forward to continuing to work with the District Attorney’s Office on this ongoing criminal case,” said Mike Hebrand, Cal Fire unit chief.

Smoke awaits extradition to Shasta County, according to Cal Fire.

Nashelly Chavez: 916-321-1188, @nashellytweets

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