When last week’s fire in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles broke out, Matt Blake did what any homeowner’s association president would do: he lent a helping hand.
Blake, who is CAA’s head of comedy touring, played a key role in assisting in the arrest of the alleged arsonist who started the multiple fires that grew up to 1,200 acres in the Santa Monica Mountain National Recreation Area. He opened up about the the series of events that occurred May 14-16 to Pollstar.
“It’s just like CAA where we share information,” Blake said, “and when everyone has information, good things happen.”
When Blake went to bed that Friday, he felt he and his neighbors would not have to evacuate their homes. Continuing his typical routine the next morning, he went mountain biking and hit a few view points where he could assess the fires better and noticed the strange locations of the burning fires, which he learned was because there was someone intentionally setting the blazes. Blake later connected with a sheriff’s deputy who let him know the suspect was wearing a blue shirt. Less than two hours after he got the description, Blake spotted the suspect on his way to a meeting.
“I saw ACS, our security company, talking to somebody who fit the description,” Blake said. “I was so adrenalized at that point. What if this is the guy that lit the fire? I was supposed to meet somebody for business, but if I went he ostensibly could have left the neighborhood and gone and done this someplace else. So I thought, ‘They’re going to understand. I got to go back.’ I made a U-turn on Palisades Drive and went back up.”
The ACS officer let the suspect go, as they cannot make arrests as a private security company, but Blake pulled up to let the officer know the man he had been talking to fit the description of the arson suspect. Blake, a neighbor and the officer then decided to catch up with the suspect, who they started talking to stall before law enforcement showed up.
“You could tell he was hurt and needed help. He’d been in the foothills for two and a half days with smoke inhalation and dehydration,” Blake explained to Pollstar. “He wasn’t making much sense and we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but I knew that this was the guy. I thought, ‘Oh, my God, we got him.’”