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[whitespace] Tip from CPD helps identify arson suspect

West Valley--A former resident of Campbell with a history of arson was arrested last week in connection with a string of fires he allegedly set in the hills above Los Gatos, Cupertino and San Jose.

Patrick Brennan, 33, was arrested on July 28 by peace officers from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who had been following him for several days.

Brennan, who now lives in Sunnyvale, admitted to setting some of the fires, and a search of his house and car turned up two lighters. He later walked arson investigators through some of the areas he allegedly burned, before he was taken to Santa Clara County Jail. He will be charged by the district attorney's office once investigators complete a series of interviews. He faces 16 counts of felony arson.

Brennan worked at a car wash in San Jose. Officials described him as a family man who was a frequent hiker in county parks.

He is suspected of starting 16 fires, mostly in county parks, between May 10 and July 6. CDF says that the fires in Lexington Reservoir, Almaden Quicksilver and Stevens Creek county parks and other open-space areas were intentionally set.

CDF officials said they received tips on the case from the Campbell Police Department, the San Jose Fire Department and anonymous tipsters, but that the break in the case came from the Campbell Police Department, which had a file on Brennan.

Brennan, who used to live in Campbell, was registered there as an arsonist after a misdemeanor conviction for setting fires in Grand Canyon National Park about five years ago. Brennan worked at the park.

CDF Santa Clara ranger unit Chief Steve Woodill said the fires were "hot starts," or fires set with a match or lighter that was taken from the scene. Investigators didn't find any incendiary devices at the scenes of the fires, and said that a specially trained dog turned up no traces of accelerants in the areas.

CDF Battalion Chief Rod Pedersen, an arson specialist who was brought in from the Sonoma Lake­Napa ranger unit to help with the investigation, says investigators have not established a motive yet.

About 15 CDF officials helped investigate the case, along with officials from 15 additional local, state and federal agencies. CDF officers kept Brennan under surveillance for about 10 days before making their arrest, to confirm that he was their suspect or eliminate him from any suspicion.

Woodill said the suspect was identified from different sources, including tips generated by a composite sketch made from a description of a man seen leaving the scene of one fire.

The largest of the fires was confined to about a quarter acre, but there was potential for a much larger fire, Woodill said. "None of the fires were large, but they all had the potential to [be]. All fires at one time or another are a quarter-acre."
Jeff Kearns

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