With several lighters in hand, a man was arrested in Chula Vista Sunday on suspicion of setting a series of brush fires in the river bottom over the last five months – including one over the weekend.
The Chula Vista Police Department said arson suspect Alejandro Gonzalez, 33, was spotted walking away quickly from the scene of a river bottom-area brush fire at around 2:30 p.m. Sunday along the 1700 block of 4th Avenue.
Download our free NBC 7 mobile app for iOS or Android to get the latest breaking news and in-depth COVID-19 coverage.
When police officers approached Gonzalez, they found him to be in possession of several lighters, CVPD Lt. Dan Peak said.
As officers questioned him, the CVPD said Gonzalez told officers he had intentionally set several brush fires in the river bottom area over the past five months.
He told police “he was setting the fires due to hearing voices,” Peak said.
Gonzalez was arrested and booked into San Diego Central Jail. At last check, he was facing one count of arson on forest land; he’s due to appear in court Friday.
According to investigators, Gonzalez is a transient known to frequent Chula Vista’s river bottom area.
Since April 30 – and including Sunday’s fire – police and the Chula Vista Fire Department have responded to eight suspicious brush fires in the river bottom.
Here’s when and where the fires happened:
- April 30: 4th Avenue and Beyer Way
- May 24: 2300 block of Faivre Street
- June 5: 1700 4th Avenue
- June 13: 4th Avenue and Main Street
- June 14: 2300 Faivre Street
- Aug. 14: 100 block of Jacqua Street
- Sept. 16: 3rd Avenue and Beyer Way
- Sept. 20: 1700 block of 4th Avenue
The CVPD said Gonzalez is linked to at least four of these fires: May 24; June 14; Sept. 16; Sept. 20. Police said Monday the four other fires in the river bottom series are not yet linked to a suspect and remain under investigation.
But the suspicious fires in Chula Vista don’t stop here.
Over the past week, the CVPD and CVFD have been called to five suspicious fires at these locations, all in the early morning hours:
- Sept. 17: Lake Crest Drive and Wueste Road, at 4 a.m.
- Sept. 17: East J Street and River Ash Drive, at 4:05 a.m.
- Sept. 17: Telegraph Canyon Road and Buena Vista Way, at 4:06 a.m.
- Sept. 17: 1100 block of Eastlake Parkway at Eastlake High School, at 4:08 a.m.
- Sept. 19: 785 E. Palomar at Veteran’s Park, at 5:05 a.m.
Those fires remain under investigation.
The CVPD is trying to find witnesses or anyone with information about Gonzalez or anyone else setting fires in the Chula Vista area. Anyone with details on any of the suspicious fires can reach out to Crime Stoppers at (888) 580-8477.