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Arson suspect arrested as authorities probe series of small fires in Santa Rosa

A Santa Rosa man is suspected of arson after firefighters snuffed out a series of small blazes Wednesday in the northwestern part of the city, authorities said.

Erik Pacheco Hernandez, 34, was arrested early Wednesday near the scene of the fourth of four fires west of Highway 101 and north of College Avenue, according to Santa Rosa police.

Jail records show he was booked into the Sonoma County Main Adult Detention Facility in Santa Rosa at 9 a.m.

Four fires were reported within the span of an hour and within 1½ miles or less from each other, said Santa Rosa Police Lt. Dan Marincik. Authorities are investigating a motive and whether Pacheco Hernandez is linked to the first three.

The first one was reported about 6 a.m. on Guerneville Road, just east of Ridley Avenue. It grew to about 5 feet by 20 feet before firefighters extinguished it, according to the Santa Rosa Fire Department.

At 6:29 a.m., a second fire was reported to the east near Guerneville and Lance Drive, where firefighters found burning debris.

Five minutes later, a third fire was reported to the south along a creek near Herbert Street and Jennings Avenue.

Multiple fire investigators and Santa Rosa police were dispatched to the area and one of them spotted the fourth fire at 6:53 a.m. along the Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit tracks near Central Avenue and Carrillo Street.

That’s south of the third fire and it was confined to a 15 feet by 15 feet area of debris and vegetation, the fire department said.

A witness described a potential suspect to authorities.

Marincik said Pacheco Hernandez was discovered in the area of Dutton Avenue and Saracen Road, which is about a half mile southwest from Central and Carrillo.

The man was considered a “person of interest” in the fires, Marincik said hours before confirming his arrest on suspicion of arson.

No injuries were reported and no structures were threatened, the department said.

The investigation comes as the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office confirmed at least two human-caused fires occurred earlier this month in El Verano near Sonoma.

A Santa Rosa man is accused of throwing a cigarette on the ground and sparking an Oct. 5 fire on Old Maple Avenue.

That was followed on Oct. 10 when a tree caught fire on Verano Avenue. Fire investigators determined the blaze was started intentionally, although the exact cause is still being investigated.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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