Man pleads not guilty in brush fire that destroyed or damaged 6 homes
A man pleaded not guilty Thursday to arson charges stemming from a fire in the Whittier area that destroyed two homes and severely damaged four others amid Santa Ana winds earlier this month.
Kevin Whitlock, 54, was charged Feb. 14 with six counts of arson of an inhabited structure or property and one count each of arson of property of another and arson of a structure or forest, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
The fire was reported at about 2:30 p.m. Feb. 10 near Cinco View Drive and East Banyon Rim Drive, according to the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
Whitlock allegedly started the blaze above a small trail in a brush area below the rim of several houses on two streets, according to the District Attorney’s Office. The fire quickly spread up the hill aided by windy conditions, destroying two homes, damaging four others and causing fire damage to the back yard of another home, according to prosecutors.
Fixed-wing aircraft and more than 200 firefighters were sent to battle the flames, which had quickly engulfed one home and then spread to several others.
The fire was 100% contained that night, the fire department reported.
The suspect was found on a hiking trail with a “non-lethal” burn injury and was taken to a hospital, authorities said.
Whitlock was subsequently arrested and remains jailed in lieu of $500,000 bail, according to jail records.
“This fire could have had fatal consequences and even though it didn’t, there was tremendous loss for several families due to the unnecessary actions of one individual,” District Attorney George Gascón said in a statement shortly after the charges were filed.