Connections to the Schulman Visitor Center fire have not been established, but the Inyo Sheriffs Department has made an arrest in connection with the recent vandalism and burglaries at local trailheads.
Early Saturday morning in Lone Pine, deputies arrested John Thomas Christiana of San Francisco in connection with the recent crimes, according to Sheriff Bill Lutze.
On Sunday August 24, at least three cars had their windows smashed in at the South Lake trailhead parking area. Then over Labor Day weekend, officers started to take reports on windows broken out of cars at the Big Pine Creek trailhead. Damage reports are still filtering in from Big Pine Creek as victims call the Sheriffs Department, but some reports indicate as many as 19 cars sustained smashed windows.
The vandalism extended beyond windows in the Big Pine Creek area. Inyo Sheriff Sergeant Jeff Hollowell says that at least one vehicle owner reported a cut brake line. There were other reports of cut gas lines. Hollowell also says that he believes that Christiana was in possession of the same object used to smash the windows out.
A DWP cabin above the trailhead was also broken into. Hollowell said that fire arms and some jewelry from that cabin were found with Christiana when he was arrested.
Sheriff's Sgt. Jeff Hollowell
With so many potential victims, Hollowell said that, this is a big investigation.
Law enforcement across the Eastern Sierra met Friday to discuss possible connections between acts of vandalism observed locally in recent weeks. No determination has been made as to the cause of the Schulman fire at this time. Investigators were still working the site as of Monday afternoon, according to Nancy Upham with the Forest Service.
If that fire turns out to be arson, Christiana could end up as a suspect. Hollowell reports that Christiana was found with containers of gasoline, but he thought it was possible that Christiana may have been stealing gasoline.
Christiana was arrested on charges of auto theft, possession of stolen property, and burglary.