Orange County Brush Fire Suspect's Wife Says Smoldering Campfire to Blame

A man was arrested Wednesday night in connection with a brush fire that forced evacuations in an Orange County community, officials said.

Paul Munoz, 56, was arrested on suspicion of trespassing and unlawful starting of a fire, according to police. The fire burned 80 acres Tuesday in the Fullerton area, forcing evacuations.

NewsChopper4 captured video of two men spotted near the fire's origin. Authorities confirmed that the man arrested late Wednesday is one of those individuals.

The suspect's wife, Lillian Munoz, said he was running from the flames because "he didn't wanna die." She said he was recovering from a medical procedure performed Sunday, which left him unable to walk without pain.

She said he didn't set the blaze.

She believes it came from a campfire that she'd unsuccessfully tried to extinguish on Monday morning.

She said she tried five times to douse the fire, which sat just outside the couple's tent, with water and soil. But when she left him asleep in the tent on Tuesday to run errands, it was apparently still smoldering.

Sometime around 4 p.m., it had spread ultimately to 80 acres and threatening 40 homes and injuring two firefighters.

She said he could've put that fire out when it started, but he couldn't because "he's crippled from the waist down."

"I'm the one that boiled the water," she said. "I'm the one that put the barbecue out. So if anybody's at fault, it's me."

The fire started Tuesday afternoon in dry brush near Castlewood Drive and Gilbert Street, near a homeless encampment. It was contained by Wednesday morning, but not before residents in about 40 homes were asked to evacuate.

Firefighting aircraft, including a pair of Super Scoopers, responded to the fire.

Residents told NBC4 they have not seen a fire in the area in years. The fire began during one of the warmest days of the year in Southern California.

Kevin LaBeach contributed to this report.

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