December 19, 2013 / 1:12 AM / 5 years ago

Ex-firefighter arrested in connection with deadly California wildfire

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A former firefighter has been arrested and accused of intentionally setting a Northern California blaze that killed a 56-year-old man and destroyed dozens of homes in early September, authorities said on Wednesday.

Zane Peterson, 29, was taken into custody at his parents home on Tuesday on suspicion of murder and arson in connection with the so-called Clover Fire, Captain Scott McLean of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The Clover fire started in remote Shasta County on September 9, blackened 8,000 acres, burned as many as 60 homes and took the life of 56-year-old Brian Henry. Some 130 non-residential structures were claimed by the fire.

“This is a significant arson arrest for CAL FIRE, Shasta County, and the residents who endured the Clover Fire and suffered losses,” CAL FIRE Unit Chief Mike Hebrard said in a statement. “The tragic loss of life and so many homes at the hands of an intentional fire is a heinous act.”

CAL FIRE led the three-month investigation of the Clover Fire.

More than 1,500 firefighters responded to the Clover Fire at the height of the incident, which cost $7.3 million to control, CAL FIRE said in a statement.

Peterson, who lived in the rural community of Happy Valley, where the fire began, is a former forestry technician and fire engine operator with the Mendocino National Forest, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Brenda Kendrix.

Peterson worked for the service between May 2005 and October 2012, Kendrix said.

In addition to the Clover Fire, Peterson is suspected of intentionally setting six vegetation fires in the late months of 2013, McLean said. He said the motive was unclear.

Peterson is scheduled to be arraigned at the Shasta County Superior Court on Wednesday, McLean said. He faces up to 25 years in prison for the murder charge and 90 years behind bars for multiple arson charges.

Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Vicki Allen

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