The man suspected of starting a grass fire near Elverta this week made his first court appearance Wednesday and refused to let the judge appoint an attorney for him.
David Petrashishen, 25, dressed in an orange jumpsuit, had a lively discussion with Placer Superior Court Judge Colleen Nichols in Auburn. The Rancho Cordova man, who was arrested by Placer County sheriff’s deputies as he left the scene of the Monday blaze, faces two separate counts of arson.
The suspect was allegedly carrying a lighter, book of matches and a pack of cigarettes when deputies arrested him. Officials said Petrashishen made “numerous admissions” when questioned by deputies.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Petrashishen repeatedly refused to let the judge appoint a public defender.
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“You have very serious felony charges,” Nichols said, advising Petrashishen against representing himself.
The suspect replied: “Not at all.”
“Do you want to talk to an attorney?” Nichols asked.
“No need,” Petrashishen replied, his voice barely audible.
“What do you want to do?” the judge asked.
“I want to go to sleep,” Petrashishen said, chuckling.
“That’s not gonna happen,” the judge snapped back, before ultimately assigning a public defender to the case and moving the formal arraignment to Friday.
Petrashishen remains at the Placer County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail, lowered from $300,000. He does not have a criminal history in Sacramento County, according to online court records.
None of the suspect’s family members attended the court hearing. Petrashishen was unemployed and depressed, his younger brother, Aleks Petrashishen Jr., said in a Tuesday interview.
“I don’t know what the hell he was doing out there,” Petrashishen Jr. said.
The fire began just before 1 p.m. Monday in Placer County and was swept by the wind into Sacramento County, threatening 20 to 30 homes, according to officials. The flames burned in the area of Browning Street and Locust Road near the Sacramento-Placer county line. The fire consumed 430 acres before being contained around 5 p.m. Monday.
The fast-moving blaze prompted a massive response from several agencies, including the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District, Sacramento Fire Department and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Two helicopters, four air tankers and one bulldozer were deployed, in addition to nearly 40 engines staffed by roughly 120 firefighters, according to Metro Fire spokeswoman Capt. Michelle Eidam.
“That fire was moving in all directions, which made it even more challenging,” Eidam said.
She said officials called in numerous resources immediately because of the threat to homes and people in the area.
Several communities were evacuated as a precaution. One home, six vehicles and one tractor were destroyed, but no injuries were reported.
Eidam couldn’t provide the cost of fighting the Elverta fire because of the number of agencies paying for the response. She noted that fire departments rarely recover funds for a fire deemed to be arson.