Date and Time of Incident: 24 June 2015, at approx. 1:13 am
24 June 2015, at approx. 1:13 am, Officer Norris was driving on Stockton Road, when he noticed a large plume of smoke coming from a dry wooded area on the south side of the roadway, on the 300 block of Stockton Road. As Officer Norris approached the area, he noticed active flames approximately 2-3 feet high coming from an area in the brush, under some trees. Cal Fire and the Sonora Fire Department responded for fire suppression.
Officer Norris contacted Todd Hunter, 51 next to the fire. Hunter who is a transient, admitted to starting the fire to warm his food. When asked about the fire conditions he responded that it wouldn’t hurt if some of the vegetation was burned off anyway.
If not for the great observation by Officer Norris, this fire could have been extremely devastating to the City, as there are numerous homes, in heavy vegetation, located just above where the fire was, and in the path of where the fire would have traveled if not noticed and extinguished.
Hunter was taken into custody and booked at the Tuolumne County Jail for felony recklessly starting a fire and misdemeanor theft of a shopping cart.
Hunter has only been in the area for two weeks and the Sonora Police Department has had several contacts with him. Hunter has an extensive criminal background including armed robbery, grand theft, possession of dangerous weapons, and manufacturing dangerous weapons while in prison.
In February 2015, Hunter was arrested by Ceres Police Department for felony causing a fire. In March 2015, he was convicted of the reduced violation of misdemeanor causing a fire and sentenced to 45 days in jail.