A transient suspected of lighting three fires in San Marino this month, and several others in Pasadena, Arcadia and Monrovia over the past two months, has been arrested and charged with six counts of arson.
The suspect, identified as 44-year-old Nigel Letren, was arrested by San Marino Police officers on Saturday during the early morning hours following a brush fire that broke out just after 7 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 19. That fire was preceded by another small brush fire in San Marino reported the day before.
According to a press notification from the SMPD on Jan. 19, the Thursday, Jan. 18 brush fire broke out at about 7:30 p.m. on the north side of Huntington Drive just east of Kensington Road. San Marino police and fire responders arrived at the scene within minutes and firefighters extinguished the fire. The response shut down westbound lanes on Huntington at Wembley Road for a short time, and police urged San Marino residents to avoid the area. There were no structures damaged in the Thursday evening blaze, and the exact cause is under investigation.
On Jan. 3, a similar fire was reported on the west side of San Gabriel Boulevard, just north of Gainsborough Drive. Police Sgt. Tim Tebbetts said the cause of that fire appeared to be an unknown substance, and said earlier reports from “an unknown witness” who described seeing “burning coals being thrown from an unknown vehicle” may have been hearsay—those details were not included in notations on the case or in email conversations between SMPD investigators. No structures or people were affected by this fire, either.
All three fires are believed to be linked to Letren who is also suspected of “a spree” of fires in Pasadena and Arcadia on Jan. 13. According to a press release issued late Wednesday evening by the Pasadena Fire Department, “an ongoing investigation by members of the Verdugo Fire Investigation Task Force yielded a suspect and description and a ‘want flyer’ was disseminated to local law enforcement entities.”
The Verdugo Fire Investigation Task Force is a regional group of investigators from the cities of San Marino, Burbank, Glendale, Pasadena, South Pasadena, Sierra Madre, Arcadia, Monrovia, San Gabriel, Alhambra, Monterey Park, and Montebello.
“This arrest is a great example of exceptional cooperation between multiple agencies and proven results from our regional Verdugo Fire Investigations Task Force,” Pasadena Fire Chief Bertral Washington said in a statement. “The Regional Fire Chiefs and I are thankful for their relentless work on behalf of the communities we serve.”
Letren was arraigned at Pasadena Superior Court on Wednesday, Jan. 24 and was charged with five counts of arson related to the fires on Jan. 13, and one count of arson related to a Dec. 9 brush fire in Monrovia. Letren is currently being held on $425,000 bail and is scheduled to appear back in court on Feb. 15.