A 49-year-old Clearlake man was arrested Monday on suspicion of setting three fires, including two that spread to several acres of wildland behind the Clearlake Post Office.
Lake County fire crews were already battling two vegetation fires in a patch of grassland north of Olympic Drive and east of Burns Valley Road when a person called police just before 1 p.m. to report seeing a suspicious man lighting a fire in the area, Clearlake Police Sgt. Rodd Joseph said in a news release.
The caller reported overhearing the man bragging to children about starting one of the fires crews were battling, Joseph said.
Officer Michael Carpenter found Johnny Johnson in a wooded area behind the Clearlake Dialysis Center on Olympic Drive, Joseph said.
Johnson apparently admitted to starting a small fire in the immediate area but claimed it was to show children "how fires are easily started" and put it out with his hands, Joseph said. He denied starting the other fires.
Firefighters had extinguished one of the wildfires that burned about a quarter-mile east of Johnson's location. They were still battling the other larger blaze, which was between 100 and 150 yards north of the man, aided by a Cal Fire helicopter.
Johnson's pants were partially melted, his hair singed and he had a lighter, Joseph said.
Officers also found unique shoeprints that matched Johnson's shoes near both fires, including a set of prints that led up to the larger fire and back toward the area where officers found him, Joseph said.
Johnson was arrested on suspicion of three felony counts of arson and booked into the Lake County Jail.
Anyone with information about the case can call Officer Carpenter at 995-8251 x542.
You can reach Staff Writer Julie Johnson at 521-5220 or firstname.lastname@example.org.