Brendan Weber

Transient Arrested for Allegedly Setting Fire on East Bay Walking Trail

A 48-year-old transient has been arrested on suspicion of intentionally setting a fire along a walking trail in Pleasant Hill, authorities said Wednesday.

The suspicious blaze ignited late Tuesday along a walking trail behind several homes.

Crews were able to extinguish the small blaze, which broke out just before 9:30 p.m. on an East Bay Mud trail near Oak Park Boulevard and Interstate 680. The blaze is part of dozens of fires to pop up in the region in the last couple months.

Investigators are now looking into whether the transient, identified by police as Mark Smith, is also responsible for the other fires.

A witness said Smith intentionally started the fire in Pleasant Hill following a fight over a homeless camp.

Witness Tiffany Synder and her boyfriend said they had just set up camp along the East Bay Municipal Utility District trail in Pleasant Hill when Smith threw a safety flare.

"He decided to come burn us alive because we were sleeping," Synder said. "If we had not woke up we probably would have been dead."

Tuesday night's blaze is at least the 12th fire to burn in the East Bay city since the middle of the summer. In neighboring Concord, more than 30 fires set in recent weeks along the Iron Horse Regional Trail, which is regularly populated with walkers, joggers and bikers, have been determined by investigators to be the work of an arsonist.

It is not yet clear if the Pleasant Hill blaze is connected to those fires in Concord.

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