Charged – Surrendered Arsonist who Set 3K+ Acres of the Wild Blue Yonder Ablaze
Photo: Osmin Palencia
AZUSA – The 08/16/2020 surrender of Osmin Palencia (dob 1/4/84) during the still-blazing RanchFire2 gave some relief to many who continued to watch eerie smoke billow and fire leap across thousands of acres in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Ravaging fire and thick-with-smoke air had been travelling across mountain hillsides and scorching gullies – challenging fire-fighters nonstop for days and nights.
According to Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office Prosecutors, “the defendant, who lives in a tent near the Mountain Cove community, allegedly started the fire on August 13 during an argument.”
The next day, Azusa PD released a “Wanted For Arson 451” poster of the male Hispanic transient, who’d “intentionally started the fire, had multiple active arrest warrants, and is known to be violent.”
The next night, Azusa PD announced, “Fire is still at 3,000 acres-plus with 0% containment and remains burning on the adjoining hillside of Mt Cove Community. Evacuations and road closures remain in place with no imminent threat to structures.”
On 08/14/2020, Los Angeles County Fire announced, “Firefighters are facing steep terrain and smoky conditions and limited resources to battle this wildfire. The cause remains under investigation.
The weather forecast for today has an excessive heat warning and critical fire weather conditions. Temperatures are expected to reach triple digits.”
“Currently, the Angeles National Forest fire danger level is ‘Extreme’,” said L.A. County Fire.”
Corresponding with this change, the Angeles National Forest moved into full fire restrictions including prohibiting campfires in developed sites.”
Emergency evacuees were directed to shelter and receive assistance at nearby Azusa Pacific University as Azusa PD announced road closures at North Bound State Route 39 at Sierra Madre Avenue and South Bound SR-39 at East Fork Road. Horses were invited to safely shelter at L.A. County Fairgrounds, in Pomona.
On 08/15/2020, Azusa PD sent further citywide Emergency Announcements: “DRONES PROHIBITED. We are receiving information regarding airborne drone activity in the Mt Cove Community. Please be advised drone activity will significantly affect fire department air resources,” and then Twittered, “#RanchFire/#Ranch2Fire (#Azusa, LA County, ANF) – AA requesting 3 additional large air tankers + a relief lead plane. T01 T15 T71 T72 + some MAFFS planes already assigned.”
Later that day, at 3PM, “We are aware that thick smoke is currently visible above our city limits,” said Azusa PD. “Please be assured the fire continues to burn well above our city and no areas of our community are currently threatened. Abundant fire resources remain on scene and are currently battling the fire.”
On 08/16/2020, as billowing clouds of acrid smoke filled the nearby valleys, with airborne ashes landing on hillsides and property in nearby cities, Azusa PD alerted, “Earlier today, Osmin Palencia (36), the suspect in this week’s Ranch Fire, surrendered himself to Azusa Police Detectives. This is an active investigation.”
As new alarming, tall billows of smoke appeared on the skyline during the dinner hour, terrified residents’ phone calls saturated emergency communications. The frightening new dire event was dubbed “Ranch2Fire.”
The DA charged the suspect on August 18th for starting a brush fire in Azusa. “Palencia faces one felony count each of arson during a state of emergency and arson of a structure or forest,” said Ricardo Santiago.
“Case KA125260 includes allegations that Palencia was previously convicted of dissuading a witness in 2015,” added Santiago. “Bail is scheduled at $435,000. If convicted as charged, Palencia faces a possible maximum sentence of 23 years in state prison.”
The case remains under investigation by the Azusa Police and Los Angeles County Fire Departments.
At this posting, on 08/21/2020, the fire, which rages on across 3,000+ acres – enough to be given two different names, is 38-percent contained. The nonstop sound of helicopters and emergency aircraft continues to fill skies with a fire-fighting battle in the searing, emergency-alert , triple-digit heat.