Arson arrest made after smoky fire prompts evacuations in Carlsbad

Carlsbad police arrested a 59-year-old man on suspicion of arson Saturday after a smoky brushfire charred about 3 acres south of Buena Vista Lagoon and prompted dozens of evacuations.

People in the area started calling 911 about 12:40 p.m. after seeing flames among brush and reeds south of the lagoon near State Street, Laguna Drive and Buena Vista Circle, Carlsbad police said.

As firefighters battled the blaze, officers from several departments helped evacuate twenty to thirty nearby homes, Carlsbad police Sgt. Shaun Lawton said. The department used reverse 911 calls, announcements from a helicopter and door-to-door visits from officers to get in contact with residents.

One witness told police they’d seen a man light an object and throw it into the brush, which caught fire, Carlsbad police Lt. Jeff Smith said in a news release. Officers searched and soon found a man who matched the description of the suspected fire-starter.

The man resisted officers, but they were able to get him into custody, Smith said. The witness subsequently identified the man as the person who’d started the fire, Smith said.

Police took the suspected fire-starter to a hospital, then booked him into the Vista jail on suspicion of arson and resisting arrest.

Crews quickly battled to keep the fire from spreading to nearby homes, and firefighting helicopter scooped water from the lagoon to drop on the sometimes towers flames.

Several streets in the area, including Carlsbad Boulevard, were closed for hours while crews battled the blaze

Lorelei Mitchell, who has lived along the lagoon on Jefferson Street for more than 25 years said the fire, “started out really small, and then it went quick.” She started packing her things while keeping an eye on the flames. She wasn’t alone. Dozens of people could be seen in the area keeping an eye on the fire’s progress.

Shortly after 2 p.m., police said the fire had been contained. No homes were burned and no injuries were reported.

“Thanks to everyone’s quick efforts, we were able to quickly address the fire,” Lawton said.

Investigators are seeking additional witnesses to the suspected arson, and asked anyone with information about it call Detective Chris Collier at (442) 339-5569 or Sergeant Jon Boyce at (442) 339-5561. They can bee emailed at [email protected] and [email protected]

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