California Department of Fish and Game wardens on Saturday arrested a Ramona man suspected of setting a fire in a wildlife area near the Salton Sea that was filled with hunters.
Jacob Thogmartin, 26, was observed by wardens coming out of the brush without a weapon and acting suspicously just outside the Wister Wildlife Area in Imperial County, stated a Fish and Game press release. When a warden made contact with Thogmartin, flames burst from the brush behind him, said the state wildlife agency.
“It was very lucky for us that our game wardens happened to be standing right there,” said Andrew Hughan with the Department of Fish and Game.
Thogmartin was immediately detained and 20 hunters and several vehicles in the path of the fire were evacuated, said Hughan. More than 300 hunters were said to be in the wildlife area, hunting waterfowl, at the time. The fire burned about 650 acres and no injuries were reported.
Hughan said the wardens already knew who Thogmartin was because he had been cited the day before for driving in a closed area and was given a warning for collecting firewood.
Thogmartin was turned over to Imperial County Sheriff’s deputies and booked into county jail for felony arson, reported the wildlife agency.
Imperial County Sheriff’s Department said Thogmartin posted bail, set at $50,000, and was released from jail on Jan. 29. His arraignment is set for March 6, said Lt. Cortez with the sheriff's department.