By Mary O’KEEFE
The Crescenta Valley Arson Watch unit was called out on Tuesday night after several fires, small and large, started burning throughout Los Angeles County.
“There was a fire in Gorman, Piru, along the [Foothill freeway] 210 by Osborne Street and a reported fire in the foothills near Pasadena [as well as] one in Walnut and Camarillo,” said Capt. Dave Silversparre, CV Sheriff’s Station.
Due to the multiple fires the Captain decided to call out the Arson Watch volunteers as an added protection for the area.
“[Normally] we self deploy on the basis of fire conditions, like red flag fire alerts or high temperatures,” said Gary Jaegers, member/dispatcher/leader of the CV Arson Watch volunteers. “But [on Tuesday] I got a call from Sgt. Ken Binkley.”
Jaegers got two, two person teams together to patrol the area. He added he understood why Silversparre and Binkley were concerned.
“Fires can be contagious. When some people see that fires are starting in several areas there is always a concern that someone could be out there [starting them],” he said.
The Arson Watch has been in the area for over 15 years. In its early history it proved its value by members discovering someone who appeared to be starting a fire.
“He was arrested,” Jaegers said.
But for the most part the Arson Watch members are extra eyes for the sheriff and fire departments. Their cars have signs that read Arson Watch. Jaegers said that is a deterrent in itself.
“We really started out as a ham radio operating [organization]. We now have sheriff [supplied] radios to report incidents but still most of us are ham radio operators,” he said.
The members are all volunteers and several of them have received Community Emergency Response Team [CERT] training.
“I am proud of the volunteers’ dedicated response and that the community didn’t suffer devastation,” Silversparre said.
Silversparre and Jaegers remind residents to continue to be aware of their surroundings and to never hesitate to contact the sheriff’s station if they see anything suspicious. Sheriff’s contact number is (818) 248-3464.