A suspected arsonist who also got into a confrontation with a fellow motorist following a crash Wednesday morning in which he allegedly brandished a gun is in custody and has been since just minutes after a wildfire was reported near the site of the crash. The fire near Grizzly Peak Boulevard and Fish Ranch Road in the Oakland/Berkeley Hills was first reported at 1:06 p.m. Wednesday and grew to 20 acres by Wednesday night, thoroughly scaring residents of these hills where a devastating firestorm destroyed thousands of homes in 1991.
As the Daily Californian reports, suspect Alfredo Bautista was arrested at 1:07 p.m. Wednesday by UC Berkeley campus police after he was believed to be the motorist who fled the scene of a three-vehicle collision earlier that morning on Grizzly Peak Boulevard, about a third of a mile from the intersection where the fire was first spotted. The crash happened around 8 a.m., and the other motorists involved said that one motorist, thought to be Bautista, got out of his vehicle, pointed a gun at one of the other motorists, and then got back into his car and fled. He was then reported back near the scene of the collision several hours later, at 11 a.m., according to a release from the Oakland Police Department. Police responded back at the scene, at which point Bautista had already fled again in the direction of the UC Berkeley campus. He abandoned his car nearby, possibly in the direction of the fire, and then was found on the campus shortly after the fire was spotted.
Neither the OPD nor Cal Fire has confirmed that Bautista is an arson suspect, however the Daily Cal finds from UCPD records that Bautista was arrested on "charges of alleged vehicle theft, starting a fire resulting in great bodily injury and starting a wildland fire."
Did Bautista set a fire to distract authorities from chasing him down? Is he mentally ill? These are open questions, however arrest reports indicate that he made a stopover at Highland Hospital Wednesday before being transported to Santa Rita Jail.
Meanwhile, over 75 firefighters continue trying to tamp out what remains of the fire, which has not registered on Cal Fire's major incident tracking site despite Cal Fire officials being present on the scene.
Berkeleyside reports that the fire is 70 percent contained as of today, Friday, via Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Melinda Drayton. They hope to reach 100 percent containment by 8 p.m. tonight.
Grizzly Peak Boulevard remains closed to traffic between South Park Drive and Centennial.
And residents remain on edge because, as many remember, the 1991 fire occurred following an incompletely extinguished, smaller fire in the Berkeley hills above the UC Berkeley campus, just like this one.