EL CERRITO – Police picked up a suspected arsonist on November 30, following a painstaking analysis of evidence gathered from a fire scene.
A suspicious person was reported to police on October 8—the day a fire occurred behind the Ross Dress for Less store, located at 2000 El Cerrito Plaza.
When responding officers arrived, a large cloud of black smoke was rising from burning brush and trees along a parkland pathway close to the store.
The officers grabbed fire extinguishers from their squad cars—and, while trying to put out the fire, they noticed a man standing nearby who seemed fixated and entranced by the flames.
Police were joined by the El Cerrito Fire Department before the blaze was finally extinguished.
The suspicious man at the fire scene was identified as 32-year-old Patrick Baker.
During a subsequent arson investigation, some badly burned documents were found inside the fire area. Investigators believed these items were used as kindling.
Detectives were unable to immediately link Baker with the fire, due the damaged condition of the evidence. However, upon further investigation, it was determined that the documents belonged to Baker.
After the investigation was completed, police located and arrested Baker, who was booked at the Martinez Detention Facility and charged with arson. Bail for his release was set at $75,000.
Police believe Baker may be responsible for setting other fires. Anyone with information about the October 8 fire or other fires is encouraged to contact the El Cerrito Police Department at 510-233-1214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.