7 fires put out at Upper Bidwell, alleged arson

17-year-old Monique Ortiz, a witness, describes the alleged arsonist to Chico Police Officer Photo credit: David Mcvicker

On Sunday afternoon 21-year-old Joey Valderrama and was detained for alleged arson.

According to Steve Harrison, division chief of Chico Fire Department, seven fires were set near Division Dam at Upper Bidwell Park on Sunday afternoon.

Shortly after 1 p.m., firefighters responded to the small fires by a channel near the golf course on Manzanita Avenue. The fires were close to a quarter of an acre in size.

This type of small fire would have been even more dangerous later in the spring or in the summer, said Capt. Mike O’Brien of Chico Police Department.

“Typically we don’t see fires in Bidwell Park in March,” O’Brien said.

After setting out the fires, Chico Fire Department and Chico Police Department set up a parameter that led to arrest. The suspect was wearing a black hoodie with baggy shorts and carrying a skateboard.

Multiple road flares and a lighter were discovered in his backpack, which police believed he had been using to set the fires, said O’Brien.

Hannah Suzuki can be reached at [email protected] or @hannahsuzuki22 on Twitter.