Volunteer firefighter charged with arson in connection with Butte County fires

Carl Costas/Sacramento Bee

A volunteer firefighter from Butte County faces eight counts of arson in connection with at least 20 suspicious fires in the Oroville area.

A volunteer firefighter from Butte County faces eight counts of arson in connection with at least 20 suspicious fires in the Oroville area.

Butte County Superior Court Judge Michael Candela ruled Monday that there is sufficient evidence to tie firefighter Jairo Perkins-Grubbs to a host of fires set between July and October of 2011.

Perkins-Grubbs has been charged with two felony counts of arson of an inhabited structure and six misdemeanor counts of arson of a structure or forest. If convicted, he could serve up to 47 years in prison.

Butte County Fire Captain Shannon Garrett said Perkins-Grubbs fell under investigators' scrutiny when security footage turned up a 1998 Ford Explorer with Washington state plates near the scene of one of the September fires. A nationwide search matched the vehicle to a woman in Vancouver, Wash. whose Facebook profile picture showed her kissing Perkins-Grubbs.

The firefighter was also the first to respond to a number of the fires, including one set across the street from his house. He has been previously convicted in Michigan for arson in 1998 and grand theft in 2000.

California fire officials said they were unaware of Perkins-Grubbs' past prior to the investigation, due to limited background checks at the volunteer level.

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