Ukiah, 20, arrested for starting the Hopkins fire that burned “many structures and threatened hundreds of lives”

Devin Johnson [Booking photo from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department website]

Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Captain Greg Van Patten announced this evening in a public update that law enforcement has arrested Devin Johnson, 20, on arson charges. Law enforcement accuses him of deliberately starting the Hopkins fire, the blaze that destroyed several homes and forced hundreds of residents to evacuate.

Wall of flames

The Hopkins fire sent a wall of flames through the Calpella neighborhoods. [Photo by Matt LaFever]

Captain Van Patten explained that shortly after the fire started at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 12, a prevention officer from the Cal Fire Mendocino unit immediately opened an investigation. The next day, a fire investigator from the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority participated in the investigation along with a prevention officer from the Cal Fire Humboldt Del Norte unit.

A house burns down in the Black Oak Estates as the Hopkins fire continues to spread. [Photo by Matt LaFever]

A house on fire in the Black Oak Estates as the Hopkins fire continues to spread. [Photo by Matt LaFever]

Today, September 14, Captain Van Patten said investigators developed surveillance footage from a nearby business up to where the Hopkins fire started on Sunday. This footage, Captain Van Patten explained, showed an unidentified adult male as “the person, the reason, the cause of the Hopkins fire.”

Soon after, these fire investigators began to search the area for clues, clues and additional evidence. At 10:50 am, one of the fire investigators saw the unidentified man “a few hundred yards from where we are today”.

Burnt Structure Calpella LaFever

A charred carcass sits outside a burning building as the Hopkins fire burns through a neighborhood on Sunday. [Photo by Mark LaFever]

According to Captain Van Patten, investigators have determined the stranger to be Devin Johnson, on active felony probation for attempted theft. As a result of follow-up investigations, Mr Johnson was arrested and held in the Mendocino County Jail. Johnson is charged with aggravated arson of several structures, arson of an inhabited structure and arson during the state of emergency. He is currently being held without bail.

Below is a video of the press conference:

The following press release from the Cal Fire Mendocino unit provides an overview of their investigation into the cause of the Hopkins fire and the successful identification of the suspect:

On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, investigators from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) Mendocino Unit arrested an individual for arson (PC 451 (c)). This individual is believed to be responsible for starting the Hopkins fire on Sunday, September 12, 2021, which burned numerous structures, threatened hundreds of lives, including response personnel, burned 257 acres and damaged services public and critical infrastructure.

A CAL FIRE officer with assistance from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office, Ukiah Valley Fire Department and Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office arrested the suspect today. The suspect was taken into custody and transported to Mendocino County Jail.

“I am very proud of our Law Enforcement Officer, Mendocino County Sheriff’s Department and District Attorney’s Office for working together on this case,” said Unit Leader CAL FIRE. MEU, George Gonzalez. “Our communities are much safer after this arrest.”

While the fire danger remains high across California, wildfires pose a major threat to life, property, and natural resources in our state. CAL FIRE urges the public to be vigilant in their preparation and be aware of suspicious activity when a fire breaks out. If you witness suspicious activity, the following steps should be taken:

  • Do not approach the person (s) engaging in the suspicious behavior, if it is safe to do so, note the description of the person (s), including location, sex, height, weight, description of clothing , hair color and any other distinguishing features such as tattoos. If a vehicle is involved in the suspicious activity, the following information may be of assistance to the investigator

California Arson Hotline: 1-800-468-4408 The arson hotline takes anonymous reports on arson and offers rewards to those who provide information about a suspected arsonist. California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection Criminal Code 451 PC – California Arson Laws www.shouselaw.com/arson.html.

In addition, with all due respect to the potential victim of the circumstances described, it should be made clear that the charges contained in the reservation book have not been proven in court. In accordance with the legal principle of the presumption of innocence, any person described must be presumed innocent until proven guilty.

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