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Auburn arrest of homeless man after fire

By: Gus Thomson, Reporter/Columnist
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UPDATE: 4:15 P.M. THURSDAY, SEPT. 6: POLICE SAY HOMELESS MAN ARRESTED ON ARSON CHARGE PUT OUT OWN FIRE

Auburn Police said that a homeless man arrested today on suspicion of arson after a report of a fire off Auburn Folsom Road made the "small fire" and then put it out himself.

The man was led away in handcuffs after firefighters and police responded to the wildfire report on heavily wooded Union Pacific right-of-way property between Pacific Avenue and Brentwood Circle.

Booked into Placer County Jail on an arson charge was 59-year-old Bill Russell Valdez, police said. Bail was $150,000. 

Police posted on their Facebook page that Union Pacific police were apprised of the camp and others on the corporation's property. Two Union Pacific employees responded quickly to confirm locations and start the process of getting sites cleaned up, police posted.

In response to a nearby resident's complaint that she had contacted police in the past about the camp where the fire occurred and the man was arrested, Auburn Police stated that residents with concerns should continue to call on camps or suspicious activity.

"In addition to our community action team, our patrol staff - day and night - also check for illegal camps and contact those who may be in need of services," the Auburn Police Facebook statement said.

ORIGINAL REPORT: AUBURN ARREST OF HOMELESS MAN AFTER FIRE

Auburn Police arrested a homeless man at a camp off Auburn Folsom Road after a fire in heavy brush was extinguished today.

The fire report came in at about 11 a.m. and dispatchers said a nearby resident was able to extinguish the fire.

At the campsite, Auburn Police handcuffed and took away a homeless man from the camp. The camp area smelled of smoke from an extinguished fire. The campsite contained grass blackened by fire and what appeared to be a makeshift campfire pit. 

A woman, who described herself as a nearby resident but declined to give her name, said that she had reported the camp in the past to authorities. She angrily expressed frustration to an Auburn Police officer and firefighters at the scene with what she said was lack of action on her complaints.

The camp was located in dense underbrush off Auburn Folsom Road, between Pacific Avenue and Brentwood Circle, and north of the Sacramento Street intersection.

The Journal will update this report as more information becomes available.