Deputies say man arrested in Valley fire area posed as officer

A Lake County man who was caught wearing a yellow rain jacket and a CHP hat in an area evacuated due to the Valley fire was arrested on suspicion of petty theft during a state of emergency and wearing identification to impersonate a police officer, the Lake County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday.

Steven Fredrick Worley, 36, of Whispering Pines was spotted by a deputy Monday afternoon in a car with its hazard lights activated and coated in pink flame retardant from firefighting activity in Whispering Pines, a community on Cobb Mountain close to the fire's starting point on Saturday, Lt. Steve Brooks said in a press release.

The car was stopped near the intersection of Maple Shadows Drive and Parnassus Road about 4:45 p.m. and Worley emerged wearing the rain jacket and a blue baseball-style hat bearing a seven-point star that said California Highway Patrol, Brooks said.

Given permission to search the car, the deputy found six cellular telephones, a portable Wi-Fi hotspot device, an iPod and a wallet with identification belonging to another person, he said. A locked safe with an electric keypad was in the back seat, and Worley said it had been given to him by a friend, Brooks said.

The deputy also found an envelope containing 13 sharp obsidian points that Worley said he found along a creek. Asked why he was driving in an active fire zone, Worley allegedly said nobody had advised him of the area's status, Brooks said.

Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin said Wednesday that no one has been arrested specifically for looting, but people taken into custody for other reasons, including Worley and another man caught in possession of burglary tools, were likely involved in looting or attempted burglary, he said.

Law officers were patrolling the fire area in force to guard against looting of homes in areas largely emptied by the evacuations.

Worley was also arrested on suspicion of removing an artifact of archaeological interest and was booked Tuesday into the Lake County Jail on $15,000 bail.

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You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or On Twitter @guykovner.

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