What to Know
- Jarrod Anthony Samra, 23, was arrested during the Bryant fire last week
- Samra was a former member of the fire explorers program
- The largest of the eight fires was the July 14 Bridge 2 fire in Highland, which scorched 460 acres
Authorities announced arson-related charges Monday in connection with a series of wildfires in San Bernardino County, including one that injured a firefighter.
Jarrod Anthony Samra, a 23-year-old man from Yucaipa and former member of the San Manuel Fire Department’s Fire Explorer program, was arrested last week in a wildfire in the hills above Mentone. His vehicle was found near the Bryant fire, which burned about 300 acres, according to authorities.
A firefighter was injured in one of the fires, which began more than a month ago.
Samra faces eight counts of arson for eight different fires in the county, District Attorney Mike Ramos said. He was charged with one count of arson causing great bodily injury.
"The history of fires in our county and the destruction they have caused to human life and property is absolutely tragic," said Ramos. "Thankfully, through the investigative work of our law enforcement and public safety partners, we were able to stop this individual and prevent any future destruction or potential loss of life."
Most of the fires started along roads and at similar times. Evidence also was found at each scene that connected the fires to Samra, according to authorities.
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Samra was a former member of the fire explorers program. Samra aged out of the program, which introduces youth members to firefighting, when he turned 21.
He faces up to 19 years in prison, if convicted.
Investigators were preparing arrest warrants for Samra when the Bryant 2 fire broke out last week. After information about the suspect was dispatched to law enforcement agencies, deputies located his vehicle Thursday near the Bryant 2 fire, burning near Highway 38, Ramos said.
The largest of the eight fires was the July 14 Bridge 2 fire in Highland, which scorched 460 acres.
Samra was expected to be arraigned Monday afternoon. It was not immediately clear whether he has an attorney.
As of Sunday, CAL FIRE reported nearly 4,000 fires in California so far this year. Those fires scorched 220,623 acres. During that same period last year, CAL FIRE reported 3,027 fires that burned 140,095 acres. California's five-year average through mid-July is 3,176 fires and more than 90,000 acres of scorched land.
A report released earlier this year provided a wildfire outlook for the hot, dry summer months in California. The National Interagency Fire Center report said wildfire risk will be high in inland Southern California in July and in parts of Northern California during August and September. The report noted what could be a delayed start to the wildfire season in some locations.
The state is coming off one of its wettest winters in years, which left hillsides covered in grass and other vegetation. That grass will dry out this summer and turn into tinder, providing fuel for rapidly spreading fires often pushed by strong winds.
An increase in the number of dead and dying trees also can exacerbate the wildfire threat, CAL FIRE officials said. An estimated 102 million trees have died in California due to the state's five-year dry spell and bark beetle infestation.
The agency has been urging residents to take prevention steps, such as maintaining 100 feet of defensible space around homes and other structures. Defensible space provides a natural buffer between buildings and grass, trees, bushes, shrubs and other vegetation that can burn.