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Affidavit reveals clues that led to Clover Fire arsonist arrest

By Shay Arthur
Published On: Jan 13 2014 09:39:24 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 14 2014 01:07:10 AM CST
REDDING, Calif. -

CAL FIRE investigators were able to catch the man whom they think started the Clover Fire by using surveillance cameras, tracking devices and interviews.

The man accused is 29-year-old Zane Peterson.

The affidavit used to get an arrest warrant for Peterson was unsealed last week after a formal request by the Redding Record Searchlight.

The 91-page affidavit details how investigators nabbed Peterson, a former U.S. Forest Service firefighter who was fired for theft in 2012.

Peterson is believed to be responsible for some seven wildland fires from September to November, but the Clover Fire was by far the worst.

According to the arrest warrant Peterson was captured on surveillance video Sept. 9, driving a pickup truck westbound on Cloverdale Road at 12:20 p.m.

That's about one minute before the Clover Fire, which had two points of origin, erupted.

More than 8,000 acres, 60 homes and one life were lost.

A second camera picked up on Peterson in the area of the second point of origin, Honeybee and Clear Creek Roads around 12:21 p.m. his pickup the only one seen passing both points of origin.

In an interview about a week later Peterson admitted to being in the area before the fire broke out.

He said he was on his way to a pawn shop.

He told investigators, "It was a scary day" and that he did not learn about the fire until later.

However, fire officials document Peterson was seen on yet another surveillance camera on Highway 273.

Investigators said if he was driving to the pawn shop he would've had a clear view of the massive inferno.

Cell phone text message records were also pulled in which Peterson allegedly admitted he was having a hard time being unemployed.

He also told investigators he'd been going through a rough patch as his niece died and she was just two months younger than his daughter.

A GPS tracking device was placed on Peterson's  truck which investigators believe links him to other fires he sparked.

Those fires, the documents said, were started with storm-proof matches.

Peterson has plead not guilty to 71 felony counts, including murder.

He's set to be back in court Jan. 16.