Peter Armstrong, a well-known photographer in Mendocino County, was on the scene of the Hopkins Fire on Sunday, September 12 when his aperture captured Devin Johnson, the 20-year-old Ukiah man suspected of purposefully lighting the fire, standing on the Moore Street Bridge staring at the fire he is alleged to have started while it burned homes and wildland.
Johnson, seen in the image above, has much longer hair than the booking photo currently on the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Booking Logs. MCSO’s Booking Log system will often initially populate mugshots from an arrestee’s previous arrest. The image of Johnson currently on MCSO’s booking logs is related to his previous arrest for aggravated robbery.
Mendocino County Sheriff Matt Kendall confirmed with us that the individual standing on the bridge in the photograph appears to be Johnson, the suspect they arrested yesterday after surveillance footage captured him leaving the scene of the fire’s origin.
As per a statement from MCSO Captain Greg Van Patten, Johnson was located within hundreds of yards of the fire’s origin point in downtown Calpella yesterday.
He stands accused of aggravated arson of multiple structures, arson of an inhabited structure, and arson during a state of emergency. He is currently being held on a no-bail status in the Mendocino County Sheriff’s Office.
A 1976 paper by Bernard Levin, a researcher for the Center of Fire Research, explored the psychological characteristics of fire starters. Levin characterized fire starters into three motivational groups: 1) arson-for-profit fire setters 2) solitary firesetters, and 3) group firesetters.
Levin’s analysis determined that arson-for-profit fire starters hope to profit from the act possibly by collecting insurance money or being paid to light a fire.
In contrast, solitary fire setters come in many forms. They can be motivated by revenge or spite, or be a pyromaniac who “derives sensual satisfaction” from their act. Another motivation for the individual fire setters could be a desire to be a “hero [that] sets fires in order to help put them out.”
Levin characterized group fire setters into three categories based on motivation: 1) political fires, 2) vandalism fires, or 3) riot fires.
Levin argued that most arsonists display characteristics of psychopathy including often leading “reasonable normal lives”, lacking “feeling or concern for others,” and they do not often respond to punishment.
Levin went on to say arsonists “often come from broken or disruptive homes,” live under “harsh or frustrating conditions,” and display “low intelligence and lack of achievement.” Arsonists often have “committed other crimes.”
Other common characteristics of arsonists, according to Levine, include “sexual and social inadequacies” and bedwetting as a child.
Our Coverage of the Hopkins Fire
- Repopulation Efforts Underway for Area of the Hopkins Fire
- 20-Year-Old Ukiah Man Arrested for Starting the Hopkins Fire Which Burned ‘Numerous Structures, Threatened Hundreds of Lives’
- Evacuation Orders Remain the Same on the Hopkins Fire This Morning
- 200 Structures Threatened But Hopkins Fire Now 20% Contained After Burning 257 Acres and Destroying a Number of Homes
- Hopkins Fire Burns Multiple Structures in Calpella North of Ukiah (Interview With Battalion Chief)
- Mandatory Evacuations as Fire Burns in Riverbed near Calpella’s Hopkins Street
- Scenes of Horrific Devastation Coming From Mendocino County as Hopkins Fire Roars Through Calpella
- Parts of Lake Mendocino Burned as the Hopkins Fire Spread Eastward