Suspect arrested following latest suspicious fires

Editor’s note: The Post’s editorial policy is not to name suspects in any case until they have been charged, unless the identity of the suspect is newsworthy itself.

A Palm Springs woman is expected to face multiple charges related to fires police say were intentionally set in the city on Monday.

According to police, the woman was arrested at the scene of the second incident, which they said began as a brush fire in the 300 block of Calle Abronia at approximately 11:30 AM and spread to a nearby unoccupied residence. She is suspected of also setting an earlier fire at the rear of a business in the 300 block of South Palm Canyon Drive. That fire occurred at 5 AM and was contained to a stack of debris behind the business.

No injuries were reported to either fire personnel or the public during either fire. The suspect was arrested on suspicion of arson, aggravated arson, parole violation, and being in possession of an incendiary device. She was booked into jail in Indio.

Monday’s fires follow a blaze reported around midnight on August 14 that may have claimed the life of a person whose body was discovered in a motorhome in an RV park, and a fire August 11 at Caliente Tropics Resort on East Palm Canyon Drive that fire officials said may have been caused by an explosion.

Those incidents add to a growing number of fires in the city that fire crews have responded to this year. Many are believed to have been purposely set, putting business owners and residents on edge.

Though many in the community suspect members of the city’s homeless population are to blame, Palm Springs Fire Department Capt. Nathan Gunkel said that without evidence, authorities are unable to confirm the suspicions.

“A lot of this is in areas without cameras,” Gunkel said. “By the time we get there — clearly this is something man-caused — but people don’t want to get involved.”

Gunkel emphasized that simply reporting a fire will not be enough to bring an end to the spree.

“Any time there’s a fire the fire department should be called,” Gunkel said. “The biggest problem is that people are calling 911 to report a fire started. They may see something, but they don’t stick around.

“We need a witness,” he added. “The best thing you can do is be a good witness. … We are a community, and we’ve always worked together very well. That’s what we need to continue to keep doing.”

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