Man Suspected in San Bernardino National Forest Arson Fires in Custody

Authorities confirmed a man who allegedly started "several" fires in the San Bernardino National Forest was in custody Monday evening.

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Beginning around 8 p.m., the California Highway Patrol and the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department received multiple 911 calls reporting a man attempting to start a fire on Highway 18 just below the Highway 138 cutoff in the county area of Crestline.

Witnesses reported that the man was armed with a gun and an ax. He also threw rocks at a vehicle on the highway. 

He ran down the highway and headed down toward Lower Bonnie Canyon, where another fire was set. 

The fires charred about 6 acres as of 10 p.m., according to the San Bernardino National Forest. 

Arson investigators, firefighters and K-9s were assisting with the search for the suspected arsonist, according to the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department. 

Benjamin Andrew Baptiste, 27, was located on the side of Highway 18, within a half mile of Old Mormon Road, by deputies. 

He was charged with multiple counts of arson. 

The San Bernardino County Fire Department and Cal Fire were assisting with the fire fight under the Crestline Bridge. 

Fire crews were making good progress and were able to stop the forward rate of spread as of 10 p.m. 

By 11:30 p.m., fire crews were getting a handle on the fire hot spots. 

There was a hard closure at Highway 18 due to the fires. 

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