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Man faces murder and 70 counts of arson for Clover Fire

By Carlo Falco
Kate Hackett, KHackett@bontencalifornia.com
Published On: Dec 18 2013 08:49:29 PM CST
Updated On: Dec 18 2013 08:49:42 PM CST
REDDING, Calif. -

Zane Peterson, the man accused of starting the Clover Fire, was arraigned today at Shasta County Superior Court. 

He plead not guilty to all charges and is being held on $3 million bail.

Peterson walked into court unrestrained and faced charges of one count of murder, 70 counts of arson and three enhancements.

Peterson is charged with the murder of Brian Henry, a 55-year-old Happy Valley man who refused to leave his home during the Clover Fire and died protecting his family’s and neighbor’s homes from the flames.

During most of the arraignment Peterson didn’t seem nervous and remained mostly expressionless.  He spent most of the arraignment whispering to his attorney and staring at the floor or looking sheepishly around the room.

Most prominently he is charged with starting the Clover Fire, which burned 8,073 acres in September 2013 destroying nearly 200 structures and threatening over 500. 

The fire also claimed one civilian life.

The Clover Fire required over 1,500 firefighters to contain it and cost over $7.3 million to fight, while causing more than $6.5 million in damages.

According to CAL FIRE, Peterson can be held responsible for the firefighting costs in civil court in addition to his criminal charges.

This is not the first time Peterson has been in court.  In 2012 he was convicted of petty theft, and he was ordered to pay back $1,083 in cash he stole from a fellow firefighter in 2011.  He has yet to pay back the money as of this writing.

The Clover Fire is not only arson Peterson is accused of, it’s just the biggest and most destructive.

Peterson is accused of going on an arson spree between Sept. 6, and Nov. 30, setting a total of six fires during that time.   Most of his other fires didn’t spread to more than an acre and none damaged or destroyed any structures.

“Mr. Peterson is charged with fires that predate the Clover Fire on Sept. 9,” said Shasta County Senior Deputy District Attorney Ben Hanna. “There’s also information that has lead us to file charges about fires that are after the Clover Fire.”

Here is a list of the other fires he is accused of setting:

Sept. 6: Panda Fire, less than one acre burned

Sept. 8: Happy Fire, two to three acres burned

Sept. 9: Clover Fire, 8,073 acres burned including 68 homes and 128 outbuildings with one fatality

Oct. 8: Gulch Fire, less than one acre burned

Oct. 9: Forty Fire, less than one acre burned

Oct. 11: Logan Fire, less than one acre burned

Nov. 30: Hawthorne Two, less than one acre burned

Deputy DA Hanna said the fires are spread between the Happy Valley and Palo Cedro area, but he couldn’t nail down exactly where the individual fires occurred.

Peterson is facing charges of arson of forest lands for all fires excluding the Clover Fire.  That charge is for intentionally starting vegetation or forest fires.

He will appear in court for his preliminary hearing on Jan. 2, 2014.