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Crews Mopping Up San Jose Wildfire Hot Spots; Arson Suspect In Custody

SAN JOSE (CBS SF) -- Crews continued to monitor and extinguish hot spots along a ridge in the San Jose hills early Friday after six intentionally set fires drove local residents from the their homes.

The fire was about 80 percent contained at daybreak and had grown to 90 acres. Fortunately, the more than 120 firefighters battling the blaze were able to prevent it from reaching any homes.

Cal Fire reported at least six small fires in the area of Colleen Drive and Chesbro Avenue near the Santa Teresa Water Treatment Plant shortly before 6 p.m.

Local residents along Greystone Road were evacuated around 6:15 p.m. Thursday with San Jose police officers going door-to-door to get residents to leave. They were allowed to return to their homes about three hours later.

Shannon East was at the dog park when she says she saw a man appear to be lighting small fires in the dry brush above her neighborhood. She and two friends ran toward him.

"One of my friends was yelling, 'Get out of there! Stop it, you're setting fires! What are you doing?'" East said. "He had a machete. At first we thought it was a stick, but it was a big, sharp object that looked like a machete and he was down, lighting the brush."

Some of East's other friends knocked on doors, letting people know the flames were approaching. The fire department ordered evacuations for a small area.

San Jose Deputy Fire Chief Michael Van Elgort said about 120-150 firefighters were on the scene at the height of the firefight. The firefighters came from Cal Fire, San Jose Fire Department and neighboring agencies. Air tankers and helicopters also dumped fire retardant on the smoldering blazes.

San Jose fire
Firefighters at the scene of a grass fire near the Santa Teresa Water Treatment plant, June 4, 2020. (Steve Guerrero)

Police arrested at least one person. A witness told KPIX 5 police officers detained a person near his home close to where the fires were burning.

Area resident Meguel Varda provided KPIX 5 with a photo of the arson suspect being led away by officers.

SJ arson suspect
SJ arson suspect (credit Meguel Varda)

"Just caught the arsonist who started 4 fires in my back yard," said Steve Guerrero in an email to KPIX 5. "Thank you San Jose Fire and San Jose PD for saving our houses! It's not over but now we can sleep."

Van Elgort said a suspect was being questioned -- "He was witnessed in the act."

The suspect's identity has not been released.

San Jose and Cal Fire crews are at the scene and expect full containment by 2 p.m. Friday, a fire department spokeswoman said.

Joe Vazquez contributed to this story.

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