Cousin of Clayton Fire arson suspect says, 'It doesn't really surprise me'

Byby Melanie Woodrow KGO logo
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
Clayton Fire arson suspect's cousin says, 'It doesn't really surprise me'
The cousin of a man who investigators say is responsible for the fast-moving Clayton Fire tells ABC7 News, "It doesn't really surprise me."

MIDDLETOWN, Calif. (KGO) -- While the fast-moving Clayton Fire continues to burn in Lower Lake, a 40-year-old man who investigators say is responsible is in jail, held on arson charges. And it's not his first time in prison.

PHOTOS: Crews battle massive Clayton Fire in Lake County

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Damin Pashilk , the man accused of starting the Clayton Fire in Lake County, Calif. appears in court on Wednesday, August 17, 2016.

At least one family member we spoke to said it's hard to imagine anyone would intentionally create such devastation for others. ABC7 News has learned the person investigators say is responsible for starting this fire was once trained to fight fires as a prison inmate.

Damin Pashilk will make his first court appearance on Wednesday. He's facing 17 counts of arson in connection with numerous fires in Lake County over the past year including the Clayton Fire, which destroyed homes and businesses.

RELATED: I-TEAM: Clayton Fire suspect had training as a firefighter

"It's hard to say whether or not this could have been prevented," said one fire official. "This individual was intent on causing a fire. We do not know at this point in time what his intent was, what was in his mind when he set this fire."

The suspect's cousin, Alex Young, told ABC7 News in a phone interview, "It doesn't really surprise me. It's just hard to even think about (how) even as a person, like how someone could even do that."

Investigators aren't saying what evidence they have linking Pashlink to the fires. By phone, his court appointed attorney said he wouldn't see the charging documents until Wednesday.

A source gave the I-Team's Dan Noyes a list of Pashilk's prior charges between 1997 and 2015. Of the 55 crimes, six were felonies. The crimes range from DUI to drugs and carrying a concealed weapon.

RELATED: Arson suspect linked to Clayton Fire to make first court appearance

A source with the State Department of Corrections also tells the I-Team's Dan Noyes that Pashilk learned how to be a firefighter at the California Correctional Center in Susanville. He worked as an inmate firefighter at Trinity county Fire Camp from April to July of 2007.

Now nine years later, he's accused of starting fires in Lake County.

"It's something that's unnecessary," said Young. "Start a fire and then you bring all the trouble to all these people like innocent people. Probably hundreds of them are out of their homes now and don't even have a place to live."

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Click here for full coverage on the Clayton Fire and click here for full coverage on last year's Valley Fire.