March 14, 2012 (La Mesa/Spring Valley) -- When 51 year old Michael Joseph Morris of La Mesa set fire to a Spring Valley hillside, little did he know security cameras were rolling. The video captured him gathering a pile of combustible material and starting the blaze that endangered lives and property.
On September 6, 2011, the San Miguel Fire District and neighboring fire agencies responded to a vegetation fire that was threatening homes on the hillside above the 8700 block of Broadway in the unincorporated area of La Mesa/Spring Valley. Summer temperatures were in the high 90’s, dry fuel conditions and the steep hillside contributed to the fire spreading toward the homes. San Miguel Fire investigators determined the fire to be Arson.
Based on an extensive joint investigation involving San Miguel Fire, San Diego County Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Squad and Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) Investigators, an arrest was made and search warrant served at a residence in the unincorporated area of La Mesa on the morning of November 3, 2011. Morris was arrested and booked into County jail on one (1) count of Arson to Forest Land and one (1) count of being a Felon in Possession of a Firearm.
The security cameras were posted outside a local bar which Morris frequented. In addition to being known as a “regular” at the bar, the cameras also showed Morris wearing a company work shirt, and on that shirt, his name was embroidered.
Morris has pled guilty to one Felony count of Unlawfully Starting a Fire. He will be sentenced in El Cajon Superior Court on March 28, 2012.