Man charged with arson in Ranch 2 fire burning near Azusa homes

Ranch 2 fire
A firefighting helicopter makes an approach to drop water on the Ranch 2 fire in the hills above a cluster of homes along the San Gabriel River near Azusa.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

A 36-year-old man living near the scene of a massive blaze that burned thousands of hillside acres near Azusa last week was charged Tuesday with starting the fire, prosecutors said.

Osmin Palencia faces one felony count each of arson during a state of emergency and arson of a structure or forest, according to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office.

Palencia, who lives in a tent in a homeless encampment in the Azusa Canyon riverbed, started the fire Aug. 13 during an argument, prosecutors said.


The blaze, dubbed the Ranch 2 Fire, was 19% contained Tuesday after charring more than 3,000 acres of dry brush, according to the Los Angles County Fire Department. The fast-moving fire started about 2:45 p.m. Thursday in the San Gabriel River bed and prompted evacuations and road closures, authorities said.

It’s one of dozens of wildfires burning across the state.

Before he surrendered, Palencia was described by Azusa police as potentially violent, with multiple active arrest warrants. Court records showed he previously was convicted of dissuading a witness in 2015.

Palencia is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday afternoon. Bail is set at $435,000. If convicted as charged, he faces a possible maximum sentence of 23 years in state prison. It was not immediately clear whether Palencia had an attorney.

The case remains under investigation by Azusa police and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.