Man arrested after setting string of fires in northwest Fresno, officials say

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FRESNO, California. (KGPE) – The man arrested on charges of setting a string of fires in Northwest Fresno was identified as 19-year-old Nicolas Martinez Wednesday.

The fires were started Monday and Tuesday in the area of Herndon and Brawley and Valentine and Alluvial. Martinez was arrested Tuesday.

Breonna Howard’s security video showed the field by her house going up in flames in a matter of minutes as her son tried to help.

“I was telling her ‘You need to get out, you need to get that water hose out there and I’ll be home in a couple of minutes,'” Jay-Lynn Rodriguez said.

Just before the fire broke out the same camera showed someone leaving the area on a bike.

Howard said the community had been on edge since fires started breaking out around them.

“I couldn’t sleep and plus I don’t really hear much. So I kept my windows open I wanted to be able to smell and hear if anything was to happen like that again,” she said.

Investigators confirmed it was arson and arrested Martinez. They said he admitted to starting four fires Monday and one on Tuesday, after a quick-thinking neighbor saw him and took action.

“I happened to see the gentleman who was doing it and he was fleeing the scene but as he was fleeing the scene he began to continue to watch the fires grow,” Marcus Ponce said.

Ponce said Martinez biked away while he followed in his car calling police to the area of Herndon and Marks.

“Marcus is like the neighborhood hero. He caught the guy the very next day,” Howard said.

Deputy Fire Marshal Jay Tracy said Martinez lives in the area and told him he did not know why he started the fires.

“If we wouldn’t have caught him on that Tuesday and that gentlemen wouldn’t have stepped up and kind of took some action there, who’s to say. I think we had a pretty high propensity for something to happen again definitely, but to say for sure I don’t know. I’m just glad that we were able to catch him,” Tracy said.

The community was also thankful for the arrest.

“It was an event that was pretty traumatic for some of us. So I wanted to be able to follow him and make sure that this was going to be put to a stop. A lot of people were able to rest easy last night because of that,” Ponce said.

Jail records showed Martinez was still in custody as of Wednesday night his bail was $200,000.

Tracy said they had not received any reports of injuries or major damages to property.

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