Cal Fire Investigates Suspected Arsonist For a Year, Fails To Stop Devastating Clayton Fire in California

Katie Aguilera

Damin Pashilk, a resident of Clearlake, California, was arrested and charged Monday, August 15, 2016, for starting 17 wildfires.  The last fire Pashilk started before being arrested was the Clayton Fire, which at the time of this publication was 50% contained, but had already destroyed 175 structures, many of which were homes.  While serving a sentence for drug and weapons charges in the past, Pashilk worked on an inmate fire fighting crew.  He isn’t the first notable former inmate firefighter in California.  Wayne Allen Huntsman who started the September 13, 2014 King Fire that burned 12 homes and nearly 100,000 acres in California also worked as an inmate firefighter.

According to this August 16, 2016 LA Times article, Pashilk had been under investigation by Cal Fire for “about a year.”  This August 17, 2016 LA Times update on the story adds this, “Clearlake, Calif., resident Damin Pashilk has started or tried to start 17 fires in Lake County since July 2015, prosecutors said.”  That article goes on to describe other fires Pashilk is alleged to have started.  It states, “on July 27, Pashilk allegedly attempted to start a fire near the Holiday Island mobile home park in Clearlake. A week-and-a-half later, GPS trackers put his vehicle near where a matchbook had started a small blaze in Lower Lake, though it burned itself out. Four days later, the Clayton fire began.”

In other words, Cal Fire had nearly a year to catch this alleged arsonist.  They had him under surveillance.  Currently, they are charging him with 17 counts of arson, so they must have some evidence to support those charges.  But, remember, fire number 17 destroyed peoples’ homes.  It destroyed at least 175 structures, and still continues to burn.  If Cal Fire had reason to charge Pashilk with any of the previous 16 fires, why did they wait to arrest him?  Why did they wait until he started this most recent fire, the Clayton Fire, destroying peoples’ homes?

Here’s the answer offered by Lake County Sheriff Brian Martin according to this local CBS report. “It wasn’t until the Clayton Fire investigators had enough to make the arrest on Monday.  ‘You get one shot at this. If you take that shot too soon, you jeopardize bringing someone to justice who truly needs to be brought to justice,’ Martin said Wednesday.”

That after a year of investigation?


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