Grass Valley arson suspect said he started fire, witness says (PHOTO GALLERY/AERIAL VIDEO) |

Grass Valley arson suspect said he started fire, witness says (PHOTO GALLERY/AERIAL VIDEO)

David Holm, charged with arson in connection with the weekend’s fire near Empire Mine State Park, told a bystander that he started the blaze, according to an eyewitness.

Darren McMaster said he was with his brother at a car shop at South Auburn and Whiting streets Saturday afternoon when Holm approached him from across the street. Holm, whom police called a transient, appeared disoriented.

McMaster said Holm asked him for money before pointing to the fire, then still producing only a wisp of smoke. An employee of the shop familiar with Holm then told the homeless man to stay in the area.

“He said, ‘Yeah, I started it,’” McMaster added. “He said straight up that he started it.”

Police arrived and handcuffed Holm before he was placed in an ambulance, McMaster said.

Charged with arson, Holm was taken to the hospital for burn injuries and smoke inhalation. He hadn’t been booked into the Nevada County Jail as of Sunday afternoon, records state.

Authorities say it appears the fire began in some woods where Holm camped and might have been caused by a cigarette.

The blaze, reported around 1:30 p.m. Saturday, grew to between 30 and 40 acres by 6 p.m. Authorities said no one was hurt and no structures damaged.

Firefighters remained on the scene Sunday afternoon, ensuring no hot spots flared into a new fire. They likely will remain at the site over the next three to four days, Cal Fire Capt. Harold Gunther said. The portion of Empire Mine that burned is closed. Nearby roads closed because of Saturday’s fire have since reopened, Gunther added.

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email or call 530-477-4239.

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