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Willits man arrested in string of wildfire arsons

A Willits man suspected of setting nine wildfires since July was arrested Tuesday, Cal Fire officials said.

Brice Lee McKinnon, 22, of Willits was booked into the Mendocino County Jail late Tuesday on suspicion of nine felony counts of arson, said Battalion Chief Brett Pinson with Cal Fire's law enforcement division.

McKinnon's bail was set at $500,000, a jail officer said.

The fires took place in July and August throughout the Willits valley, Pinson said. He declined to specify the dates, locations or size of the fires and stated that the case was still under investigation.

"There was a similarity in how the fires started," Pinson said.

McKinnon became a "person of interest" after a tipster alerted authorities on July 13, Pinson said. As the suspicious fires continued, investigators determined McKinnon was a prime suspect, Pinson said.

Pinson said he wasn't aware of any injuries or damage to structures in the fires. The blazes drained area fire resources already strapped with fire crews sent throughout the state to battle the fires, Pinson said.

"It was a very dangerous time to have someone lighting fires," Pinson said.

The Little Lake Fire Department, Willits Police and the Mendocino District Attorney's Office aided Cal Fire in the investigation.

Anyone with information about arson can call the Cal Fire arson hotline at (800) 468-4408, and may remain anonymous.


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