MENDOCINO Co., 8/13/20 — A sleep summer’s afternoon in Ukiah was disrupted by a rash of alleged arsons yesterday with at least five substantial fires set that burned brush, sent worrisome plumes into the sky and triggered an evacuation warning in the Oak Knoll area. Within a short time of the first fires it became apparent that these fires were no coincidence, and very likely arsons.
In total six distinct areas were set ablaze, with some fires growing up to about an acres. In the case of the fires near Babcock Lane and Talmage Road, which burned the bank of the Russian River, officials say that four smaller fires were set which may have merged — this would add up to a nine fire spree.
For some time yesterday evening law enforcement officers pursued a suspect seen leaving the are of the fire along the Russian. Another man was also detained but later released, and the actual culprit remained at large. Last night detectives for the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office interviewed an off duty corrections officer who had seen Alberto Vincent Acosta, 32, in the vicinity of the fire. According to a press release from the MCSO, further evidence from “video systems footage” prompted a BOLO for Acosta.
This morning he seen by Ukiah Police Department officers on State Street and arrested then transferred to MCSO detectives. Acosta was booked into Mendocino County Jail on three separate charges of arson: arson of an inhabited structure or property, arson of structure of forest land, arson during a state of emergency.
Acosta was previously convicted of vandalism in 2013, for which he served time, on that occasion his residence was listed as Covelo, and this time he is listed as hailing from Ukiah; he is listed as Native American in the booking logs.
It should be noted that in the American justice system all people are considered innocent until proven guilty — here is the press release from the MCSO:
DATE: “August 13, 2020”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
451 PC (Arson)
UPDATED LOCATIONS in Ukiah Valley:
South Dora Street near Fircrest Drive
South Dora Street at Bourbon Lane
Gobalet Lane at South State Street
Plant Road near Taylor Drive
End of Airport Park Boulevard
Babcock Lane near Talmage Bridge (4 separate fires)
Date of Incident:
4:55 PM to 6:57 PM
Alberto Vincent Acosta (32 year-old male from Ukiah, CA)
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184
UPDATED PRESS RELEASE:
Detectives from the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office continued investigations into the late evening hours of 08-12-2020 in regards to the suspected arson fires.
During this time, Detectives interviewed an off-duty Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office Corrections Deputy who had been driving in the area of the Talmage Bridge at the approximate time of the fires on Babcock Lane.
The Corrections Deputy noticed the presence of Alberto Acosta near the area of the fire and provided that information along with Acosta’s description to Detectives.
Detectives were able to collect footage from surveillance video systems from residences and businesses near some of the fires.
The observations of the Corrections Deputy and the video systems footage established evidence which prompted Detectives to issue a Be-On-The-Look-Out (BOLO) notification to local law enforcement agencies for Acosta’s arrest.
On 08-13-2020 at approximately 7:00 AM an officer from the Ukiah Police Department was on routine patrol in the area of Perkins Street and South Orchard Avenue when he noticed Acosta walking in the area. The officer stopped Acosta and he was subsequently released to Sheriff’s Office Detectives.
Acosta was subsequently booked into the Mendocino County Jail on charges of 451(b) PC [Arson of inhabited structure], 451(c) PC [Arson of structure or forest land] and 454(a)(2) PC [Arson during a state of emergency]. Acosta was to be held in lieu of $1,000,000.00 bail.
Sheriff’s Office Detectives have linked Acosta to the 08-12-2020 fires that occurred at the following locations (see attached map/approximate times):
4:56 PM – South Dora Street near Fircrest Drive
4:58 PM – South Dora Street at Bourbon Lane
5:04 PM – Gobalet Lane at South State Street
5:15 PM – Plant Road near Taylor Drive
5:18 PM – End of Airport Park Boulevard
6:14 PM to 6:19 PM – Babcock Lane near Talmage Bridge (4 separate fires)
Sheriff’s Detectives are continuing to ask for the public’s assistance in obtaining security camera footage to assist in this investigation.
If any business/residence has security camera footage of the outside of their business/home depicting the person described in this press release, during the time frame of 4:50 PM to 6:57 PM on 08-12-2020, then please contact the Sheriff’s Office Tipline by calling 707-234-2100.
The areas of interest for security camera footage in Ukiah are:
Luce Avenue to South Dora Street
South Dora Street to Oak Court Road
South State Street to Gobalet Lane
Norgard Lane near the railroad tracks
Airport Park Boulevard
Babcock Lane from Talmage Road to East Gobbi Street
The Sheriff’s Office would like to thank the Ukiah Police Department, California Highway Patrol, County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team and Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force for their assistance during this investigation.
The Sheriff’s Office would also like to thank CALFIRE, Ukiah Valley Fire Authority, Hopland Fire Department, Redwood Valley Fire Department and Potter Valley Fire Department for their response and fire suppression efforts during this incident.
At this time it appears the fires caused damage to vegetation and the wooden deck of one residence.
ORIGINAL PRESS RELEASE:
On 08-12-2020 at 4:55 PM Mendocino County Sheriff’s Deputies were dispatched to a fire on South Dora Street near the intersection of Fircrest Drive in Ukiah, California.
As Deputies were arriving at the scene, a separate fire was reported on Gobalet Lane near South Street Street approximately 1.5 miles to the south.
As Deputies were also arriving at this scene, they noticed another fire on Highway 253 near South State Street which was approximately 1/2 mile to the south.
Deputies began providing evacuation warnings to the public located in these areas when another fire was reported on Plant Road near Taylor Drive in the approximate area to the fires on Gobalet Lane and Highway 253.
As Deputies were contacting the public they learned several people had seen a person who they believed was intentionally starting the fires.
This person was reportedly a Native American or Hispanic adult male. He was described has having a ponytail, wearing black clothing and riding a bicycle.
Deputies began searching the area for the person with the assistance of the Ukiah Police Department, California Highway Patrol, County of Mendocino Marijuana Enforcement Team and Mendocino County Major Crimes Task Force.
For approximately two hours, several people matching the person’s description were contacted by law enforcement personnel but the contacts did not yield the person suspected of committing the acts of arson.
During the two hour period, there were three additional fires with two being located at the end of Airport Park Boulevard and one being located on Babcock Lane near the Talmage bridge.
Personnel from CALFIRE, the Ukiah Valley Fire Authority and Hopland Fire Department responded quickly to each fire scene. Once arriving they were able to quickly contain the spread of the fires and were successful in getting them extinguished.
Sheriff’s Detectives are continuing investigations into the fires which are believed to be acts of arson at this time.
Investigators are asking for the public’s assistance in identifying the person who is believed to have committed these acts of arson.
If anyone living in the following areas has security camera footage of the outside of their home depicting the person described in this press release, during the time frame of 4:50 PM to 6:57 PM on 08-12-2020, then please contact the Sheriff’s Office Tipline by calling 707-234-2100.
The areas of interest for security camera footage are:
South Dora Street from Fircrest Drive to MeadowBrook Drive
Fircrest Drive to South State Street
Oak Knoll Road to South State Street
Fairview Court to South State Street
South State Street from Fircrest to Highway 253
Airport Park Boulevard
Captain Gregory L. Van Patten #1184