Sheriff’s investigators have arrested a man they believe is responsible for igniting multiple fires east of Gasquet over the weekend.
Deputies took 34-year-old Michael Adrian Lindauer into custody Tuesday afternoon about 1.5 miles up North Fork near Stony Creek and booked him into the Del Norte County Jail on offenses related to providing false information to a law enforcement officer, vehicle theft and outstanding warrants.
Sheriff’s investigators also believe Lindauer is their arson suspect, Del Norte County Sheriff Erik Apperson said Wednesday, and are still working to put a case together. Although Lindauer has been released on one of the charges against him, he is still in custody at the Del Norte County Jail, Apperson said.
“He’ll be there until he sees the judge or makes bail,” Apperson said.
Lindauer’s arrest comes after the sheriff’s office, Gasquet Fire and Crescent Fire responded to a blaze on Saturday on Siskiyou Fork Road about 1.5 miles from U.S. 199. When they searched the area, responders found five more fires, two of which were active, and noted the roadway leading into the fires was blocked to prevent access, according to a Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office news release.
On Monday, Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven told the Triplicate the arsonist tried to block access to the area by dragging trees and obstacles into the roadway. At the end of the road, investigators found a Subaru station wagon reported stolen by authorities in Ashland, Oregon, according to Steven.
After canvassing the area, firefighters and sheriff’s investigators located another active blaze up the Siskiyou Fork Drainage. Gasquet Fire requested a helicopter. CAL FIRE responded and all active fires were put out.
Unable to remove the stolen vehicle, investigators secured the area after collecting evidence and left the scene until Sunday morning, according to the sheriff’s press release. When they returned to remove the vehicle and continue their investigation, they discovered and extinguished a new fire. The sheriff’s office also removed the vehicle with help from a local resident, according to the press release.
On Sunday evening, residents on Little Jones Creek Road reported another fire near Jawbone. Gasquet Fire, Crescent Fire, and the U.S. Forest Service responded and successfully extinguished the blaze. However, sheriff’s deputies found two more fires, one of which was set in up in a tree, according to the press release.
After receiving a photograph from the Ashland Police Department of an unknown suspect connected with the vehicle theft, the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office issued a “be on the lookout” warning to local law enforcement agencies.
An individual matching Lindauer’s description was spotted near Patrick Creek Lodge on Monday morning. The sheriff’s office responded quickly, but the suspect fled into the wooded area nearby.
Later that day, a caller reported a hitchhiker matching Lindauer’s description near the lodge. The sheriff’s officer, assisted by California Highway Patrol and state and national park rangers, set up a perimeter, searched the region for several hours but did not locate the individual, according to the press release.
Sheriff’s deputies received another report Tuesday morning of an individual matching Lindauer’s description near Panther Flat Campground. Deputies established a perimeter and spotted the suspect fleeing into the treeline near the Smith River just below the campground. Deputies continued to track Lindauer for several hours until they received a report that he may be at Gasquet Market.
A local resident identified the suspect as Michael Lindauer, who was also wanted for outstanding out-of-the-area warrants for vehicle theft, according to the press release. Lindauer is also on probation in two different California jurisdictions, according to the release.
Sheriff’s deputies encountered Lindauer near the Gasquet Forks and pursued him, putting out an alert to residents via the Del Norte Community Alert System advising them of the search and asking for help. After receiving more tips from residents, Lindauer was found 1.5 miles up North Fork near Stony Creek.
In addition to deputies suspecting Lindauer of the recent spate of fires, he is believed to be a suspect in another recent local arson, according to the sheriff’s press release.
In the Sheriff’s press release, Apperson praised the work of his deputies, Gasquet Fire and the other fire responders for their response.
“They had no off switch while working extra-long shifts and traversing over some of the most treacherous terrain our wilderness has to offer,” Apperson said in a written statement. “Sergeant McManus, Sergeant Schneck and Deputy Asbury acted tirelessly and exemplary. I want to thank Gasquet Fire and all other fire responders for their rapid response as these fires could have gotten out of control if not for their level of professionalism. I also want to thank other law enforcement agencies, including the CHP and state and national parks for helping out without hesitation. Finally, and probably most importantly, I want to offer my admiration to our community for picking up the phone and helping us track this individual over the past several days.”
On Wednesday, Apperson also addressed a misconception that Lindauer has been released from jail. Apperson noted that misconception is based on a function of the information page on the Del Norte County Sheriff’s Office website and said that while Lindauer may have been released on a charge that doesn’t mean he’s still not housed at the jail.
“That site was put out as a tool for the public,” Apperson said of the Sheriff’s Information Page. “People just need to understand if they want to know who’s in custody to look at who’s in custody and not who’s been released. The release page goes by specific offenses; the in-custody page goes by physical presence.”
Reach Jessica Cejnar at email@example.com .