Update: La Mesan 'Not Remorseful in Any Way' When Questioned in Arson

Michael Joseph Morris, 51, is shown observing progress of blaze on Spring Valley hillside.

Updated at 6:07 p.m. on March 13

Battalion Chief Andrew Menshek of the San Miguel Fire District confirmed that the surveillance camera is used jointly by Danny's Cocktails (8729 Broadway), the bar where Michael Joseph Morris would frequent, and

Menshek, who was part of the fire investigation team, said that it is still unclear what Morris' motivation was for starting the fire.

"That's the mystery question," said Menshek. "He never admitted why."

Menshek said that Morris claimed that he was using a cigarett to try to burn some ants which were swarming on a dead lizard.

"We know from the video that that's not true. He used a lighter to start the fire. He did not seem remorseful about it in any way shape or form. He had many, many opportunities to stop that chain of events, and to stop that fire from going, and he never did."

*   *   *

Original story, published at 12:16 p.m. on March 13.

Michael Joseph Morris, 51, of unincorporated La Mesa has pleaded guilty to one count of unlawfully starting a fire after surveillance footage showed he set a Spring Valley hillside on fire in September 2011, authorities said Tuesday.

The attached clips—provided by the San Miguel fire district—show Morris gathering sticks and other combustible material and starting a blaze, and later coming back to observe the flames.

With temperatures in the mid-90s and dry conditions, the fire spread quickly and threatened property and homes in the unincorporated La Mesa-Spring Valley area.

On Sept. 6, 2011, personnel, along with neighboring agencies, that was threatening homes on a hillside above the 8700 block of Broadway, near Polaris Street.

Leonard Villareal, San Miguel fire spokesman, said at the time that the cause of the fire was under investigation, and that it may have been caused by "discarded cigarette material."

The security cameras that caught Morris in the act were posted outside a local bar, where he was a regular. Cameras captured Morris wearing a blue company work shirt with his name embroidered, Villareal said.

In a joint investigation by San Miguel, San Diego County Sheriff’s Bomb/Arson Squad and Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF) investigators, an arrest was made and search warrant served at a residence in the unincorporated area of La Mesa on the morning of Nov. 3, 2011, Villareal said.

Morris was arrested and booked into County Jail on one count of arson to forest land and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. His sentencing has been set for March 28 in El Cajon Superior Court.


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