Arson Suspect Detained After Being Chased Down by Witnesses in Anaheim Hills Area

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A man suspected of trying to set multiple vegetation fires in the Anaheim Hills area Friday was detained after two witnesses chased him down, police said.

Authorities responded after receiving reports that a male subject dressed all in black was setting fires in an area near the Festival Center, Anaheim Fire and Rescue tweeted shortly before 6 p.m.

The man managed to spark one blaze before being detained by two witnesses who ran after him and held him at the scene until police arrived, authorities said.

An off-duty lieutenant was having dinner with his family when he spotted someone setting a fire in the brush near Santa Ana Canyon Road and Festival Drive, according to police.  He called 911.

Another person who was staying at a nearby hotel also saw flames. Scott Nelson watched as authorities set up a perimeter to search for the arsonist.

He was told by a fire commander that authorities were looking for the perpetrator.

While crews were busy putting out the fire, Nelson spotted someone who looked suspicious. Nelson said he has trouble walking, but nevertheless he went after the person.

"Even though I suffer from MS, you know, you got to stop somebody like that," Nelson told KTLA. "Then I passed a gentleman, said, 'Hey, there's an arsonist, I need help.'"

 Josh Vietti, a resident of Ventura who was staying in the area because the Thomas Fire is burning in his community, said he had heard rustling prior to being approached by Nelson.

Together, the two men followed the suspect about a half-mile and cornered him until police arrived and took him into custody, Vietti told KTLA.  

Authorities thanked the two witnesses for helping to detain the suspect, and said things could have been pretty bad if the alleged arsonist had ignited a blaze.

"This area is very thick underbrush ... historically if we have fires in those areas we have hundreds of homes and thousands of residents who would be at risk," Anaheim Police Department Sgt. Daron Wyatt said.

 Authorities searched the area but did not find anyone else and believe they have the sole suspect in custody. He has not been arrested yet. 

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