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Riverside fire started when auto-theft suspect lit up vehicle, vegetation, sheriff’s officials say

By in Press Enterprise on December 5, 2017

By Nikie Johnson

A wildfire that has damaged some homes in Riverside was started Monday by a vehicle-theft suspect who torched the vehicle and some vegetation in the Santa Ana River bottom as sheriff’s deputies were trying to catch him, the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department said.

Before setting the fires, the suspect also rammed the stolen vehicle into a patrol car, causing a deputy to shoot at him, sheriff’s officials said in a news release.

The suspect — convicted felon Clinton Jeffrey Althizer, 40, of Jurupa Valley — was not injured, officials said. The deputy whose car was hit was taken to a hospital as a precaution. Two Riverside Police Department officers who suffered minor injuries while helping to arrest Althizer also were treated at a hospital.

The Riverdale fire had burned 40 acres and was 50 percent contained by late Monday, Riverside fire officials said. About 20 homes in a neighborhood near the riverbottom — which is often dry — were evacuated for several hours. No houses were destroyed, but a few sustained minor damage from embers being blown by strong Santa Ana winds, officials said.

  • Map: Here’s where the Riverdale fire is burning in Riverside
  • A helicopter makes a water drop over a brush fire buring in the Santa Ana Riverbed bottom in Riverside on Monday afternoon, Dec. 4, 2017. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

  • A firefighter holds to his helmet as strong Santa Ana winds blow smoke from a brush fire burning in the Santa Ana Riverbed bottom in Riverside on Monday afternoon, Dec. 4, 2017. (Photo by Watchara Phomicinda, The Press-Enterprise/SCNG)

    A firefighter holds to his helmet as strong Santa Ana winds blow smoke from a brush fire burning in the Santa Ana Riverbed bottom in Riverside on Monday afternoon, […]    

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