Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, July 2 @ 3:59 p.m. / Crime

Crescent City Woman Faces Arson Charge In Connection With June 19 Warehouse Fire

The fire on State Street sent a column of smoke over nearby KFUG Community Radio Station on June 19. | Photo courtesy of Amanda Dockter


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A Crescent City woman is accused of starting the warehouse fire on June 19 that led to an estimated $1.2 million in property loss, not counting the structure itself, according to Del Norte County Sheriff’s Sgt. LeAnn McClaflin.

Marsha Waltz, 40, was arraigned in Del Norte County Superior Court on Tuesday on charges of arson, McClaflin told the Wild Rivers Outpost.

California Highway Patrol officers arrested Waltz on June 22 after McClaflin put a BOLO out naming the 40-year-old woman a person of interest in the fire investigation. Waltz also had two outstanding warrant for shoplifting, failures to appear in court and other unrelated matters, the sheriff’s sergeant said.

McClaflin said she had been interviewing witnesses and members of the homeless community who had lived near the 300-foot structure on State Street that burned to the ground. Waltz’s name kept coming up. According to McClaflin, she was known in the community as being a “fire starter.”

“I interviewed her on the 22nd,” McClaflin said. “She admitted to being in the area, but not necessarily to starting the fire. And then Calfire from Humboldt came up and helped me conduct an arson investigation of the structure. We figured out a point of origin and collected more evidence and re-interviewed her.”

The fire’s point of origin was the southwest corner of the warehouse, McClaflin told the Outpost.

According to McClaflin, during her investigation, she determined that Waltz had a camp in the bushes about 260 feet away from the warehouse. She and others in the community would get water from a spigot at the warehouse, McClaflin said. The sergeant said she presented her evidence to the suspect on June 28 when Waltz allegedly admitted to negligently starting the fire.

“It was nighttime, so she had made what she called a makeshift torch. She had a stick and had wrapped a piece of clothing around it that has poly nylon fabric that burns well and lit that with a lighter and used that as a flashlight,” McClaflin said. “She was in the area [getting water]. She misplaced some food items, got upset about it and dropped the torch outside the shop at that corner.”

According to McClaflin, Waltz had been camping near the State Street warehouse since February. She had been frequenting the area since about December, McClaflin said, and had previously been charged with trespassing and breaking into a detached room at the warehouse.

Firefighters from nearly every agency in Del Norte County spent about nine hours trying to save some “brand new ready-to-go” crab pots and other equipment inside the warehouse on June 19.

They had responded to the scene at about 10:15 p.m. and were still dousing hotspots at about noon the next day, Batallion Chief Darrin Short told the Outpost on June 20.

The building had been partitioned off into six or seven areas and primarily rented to local fishermen to store their crab gear and equipment.

Though he was able to save a forklift, salmon tank and salmon pole, one fisherman, Christophe Nicolas, estimated his losses at about $200,000.

“It’s devastating because I had my whole life in this,” Nicolas told the Outpost on June 21. “In the last five years, I weeded out most of my gear and it looked absolutely beautiful, and that’s what burned.”

Waltz is currently lodged at the Del Norte County Jail on $200,000 bail. Her charges include arson, possessing material or device for arson, unauthorized non-agricultural burning, misdemeanor shoplifting, trespassing and failure to appear.


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