Fake firefighter accused of spreading bogus evacuation news near Arizona wildfire

Jul 11, 2024, 9:59 AM | Updated: 1:06 pm

PHOENIX – A man was arrested Wednesday night for allegedly impersonating a firefighter and telling residents near an Arizona wildfire to evacuate, according to authorities.

While officials did put a section of Congress on high alert due to the Hillside Fire, they didn’t issue evacuation orders.

The suspect caused a panic with his actions, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.

Congress residents told deputies a man who claimed to be a Yarnell firefighter was going to homes and telling people to evacuate. Witnesses identified the suspect as Patrick Parent, who was known to deputies.

The Yarnell fire chief told YCSO that Parent had been let go from the department months ago.

Deputies found the suspect driving in the area where he stays, stopped him and took him into custody. They found Yarnell fire clothing, wildland fire pants and a hardhat with a lamp, YCSO said.

Parent was booked into jail on suspicion of impersonating of a public servant, criminal nuisance and disorderly conduct.

He also faces a possible DUI charge, pending blood alcohol test results. Deputies noted signs of intoxication during the arrest.

Hillside Fire doubles in size overnight

Meanwhile, the Hillside Fire grew overnight, authorities said Thursday morning. The footprint was measured at 807 acres with no containment after accurate mapping was conducted, according to the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management. That was down from an earlier estimate of 1,200 acres.

The fire was first reported Tuesday night, but it wasn’t a threat until winds picked up the next day. Fueled by dry vegetation and gusts up to 60 mph, the fire spread across 600 acres by 10:30 p.m. Wednesday.

YCSO said the flames crept within 20 yards of a Ghost Town Mine office structure.

In response, officials placed the Ghost Town Road area in the “SET” status of the state’s emergency warning system, meaning residents should be prepared to evacuate due to significant danger. However, unlike the alleged message from the fake firefighter, “GO” orders were not issued.

The latest incident report said 116 personnel were assigned to combat the blaze, with eight engines, and two water tenders.

YCSO said two area intersections were limited by roadblocks: at Ghost Town Road and Gold Dollar and at State Route 89 and Date Creek.

The Hillside Fire is considered a threat to the BNSF rail line east of the blaze.

Congress is about 16 miles northwest of Wickenburg and 80 miles from downtown Phoenix.

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Fake firefighter accused of spreading bogus evacuation news near Arizona wildfire