Arson detectives pinpoint person of interest in Newhall fires

Law enforcement and firefighters respond to two fires in Newhall that erupted within minutes of each other on Aug. 13, 2020. Caleb Lunetta/ The Signal

By Tammy Murga and Caleb Lunetta

Los Angeles County Arson and Explosives detectives said Friday they have a person of interest who remains outstanding after multiple fires broke out within minutes of each other in Newhall Thursday night, which officials said they believe were incidental following a domestic issue. 

“We have a person of interest who is not in custody. We are trying to determine whether the fire was intentionally set or not,” said Detective Scott Schulze. 

Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies received “a call for service regarding a domestic incident and the suspect in that case may have lit several fires incidentally but not committing arson,” said Sgt. Bengtson, who asked that his first name not be used. “He (the suspect) was attempting to destroy his or his wife’s property.” 

Bengtson confirmed the property to be a vehicle, although he did not have an immediate description of the car. 

On Friday morning, Shirley Miller, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s station, said Arson and Explosives detectives had been sent to the scene. 

“A vehicle was found on fire and an individual was seen leaving the location,” said Miller. “As of last night, they had been unable to locate the driver. 

Los Angeles County Fire Department firefighters responded to a vehicle fire near Trumpet Drive at around 10:15 p.m., according to Supervisor Bernard Peters. 

About 30 minutes earlier, crews had also responded to a vegetation fire on the 23000 block of Newhall Avenue near Valle Del Oro. Firefighters quickly doused the 1.5-acre blaze around 10:02 p.m., according to Supervisor Michael Pittman. 

“We have a 1-acre (fire), light-to-medium brush at the top of the hillside,” Supervisor Michael Pittman, with the Los Angeles County Fire Department, said as fire personnel responded. 

The blaze resulted in a burned power pole and impacted two Southern California Edison customers, and their power was said to be restored by Friday morning, according to Edison spokesman Paul Griffo. 

Multiple witnesses said they saw the possible suspect depart from a vehicle and flee the area as the fire began to spread. 

Angel Enriquez, a fifth-grade student from Newhall, was among those who saw one of the fires break out. 

“We went inside and then 10 minutes later, we heard sirens so we just went outside and looked and it was a huge fire. (I) felt scared; I started packing my bags,” he said. 

Other witnesses nearby said they noticed a green Jeep in nearby hilly areas just before the fires started. 

No structures had been damaged and no injuries were reported as a result of the fire, according to Miller.

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