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Suspect wanted for questioning in Station fire charged with setting smaller blaze

October 19, 2009 |  2:27 pm

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0120a5afb8e4970c-pi

A suspect wanted for questioning in the Station fire has been arrested and charged with setting a small fire near Angeles Crest Highway, Los Angeles County sheriff's officials said today.

Babatunsin Olukunle, a 25-year-old Nigerian national, was arrested Thursday in Lancaster, said Sheriff's Lt. Liam Gallagher.

"We are going to talk to him about the Station fire, but we're not going to list him as a suspect [in that fire] just yet," Gallagher said.

Olukunle was caught tending a small fire near Marker 36 of the Angeles Crest Highway in the early afternoon of Aug. 20, six days before the start of the Station fire, the largest brush fire in L.A. County history. The fire burned for almost two months and scorched more than 250 square miles.

The Station fire probe became a homicide investigation after two firefighters died when their truck fell 800 feet into a ravine as they tried to find an escape route from the flames for fellow firefighters.

L.A. County and the state have offered a $150,000 reward for information leading to the conviction of the arsonist. The Station fire destroyed dozens of structures. Investigators believe a substance found near the fire’s point of origin helped spread the deadly blaze and it has emerged as a key piece of evidence in the arson probe, a source told The Times.

The source would not identify the substance but said it was found in the brush off Angeles Crest Highway, walking distance from the turnoff that is at the center of the arson probe.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Photo: Burned fire hose frames a turnout on the Angeles Crest Highway where fire investigators believe an arson ignited the massive Station fire. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

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