18-year-old on probation arrested for starting fire

Flames destroy a shed on Keeler Avenue in Yucca Mesa Tuesday. A resident of the property, Justin Mason, 18, was arrested on suspicion of starting the fire.

YUCCA MESA — An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of arson after fire destroyed a shed, water tower and about two acres of brush Tuesday evening at 2828 Keeler Ave.

Justin Mason is being held at West Valley Detention Center on $100,000 bail and is due in the Joshua Tree superior court Friday, although the district attorney has not yet formally filed charges.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Derek Garvin said the fire started in a shed on a property where Mason and other members of his family live in two houses. One of his family members called to report the fire at 6:19 p.m. and claimed that Mason had threatened her with a gun before, according to the call log.

Because of the potential that a weapon was on the scene, the Sheriff’s Department responded first.

“The firefighters had wait until we could clear the scene,” Garvin said.

When sheriff’s deputies arrived, they found a couple of people trying to put out the fire, including Mason, he added.

Everyone on the scene was cooperative and investigators did not find evidence of a gun, Garvin said, so the firefighters were able to move into place and start extinguishing the flames.

County fire Battalion Chief Mike McClintock said firefighters were dispatched at 6:19 p.m. and were cleared to enter the scene 20 minutes later.

They found two outbuildings well involved in flames with some extension into nearby vegetation.

Crews immediately attacked the flames and were able to keep the total land burned to 1.7 acres, although the shed and outbuilding were completely destroyed, McClintock said.

County fire sent three engines and a battalion chief, while Cal Fire also sent three engines because the land was just bordering the state responsibility area.

“They helped us work on containing that and we appreciate it,” McClintock said.

In the meantime, the Sheriff’s Department was working on the scene as well.

“After an investigation and interviews, we wound up taking Mason into custody for negligent starting of a fire,” Garvin said.

Members of the fire and sheriff’s departments are working together on the investigation, with the sheriff’s arson and bomb squad taking the lead.

Mason is on probation for convictions on May 22 of two misdemeanors: trespassing and possession of ammunition, which he was prohibited from owning because of previous charges. He pleaded guilty and in exchange, the court dismissed a third charge of drug possession.

(1) comment


Speaking of "probation"; I see that yet another person "on felony probation" (according to this paper) was found in possession of a crack pipe and "ice" (methedrine) and simply "cited and released". It's crazy enough that ice and crack users are just ticketed and let go these days, but if someone is on "felony probation" shouldn't almost any violation of the law be grounds for incarceration? At least at a rehab facility. How about mandatory AA meetings? What happened to those? Are these addictive substances so common now that the system has just thrown up their hands? Speed freaks STEAL STUFF. Having a crack and ice problem is probably the worst thing a community can be faced with. This area was convinced the world was going to end when pot was legalized and it didn't. They don't seem too upset about all the hard drugs infiltrating the neighborhood if they're just letting addicts go about their their sorry business with zero consequences. Don't blame the cops. Why bust these people if the judges just let them go anyway? There's hardly any point I guess.

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