The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office has charged James Bishop III, in connection with a series of vehicle fires in Contra Costa County. He is being charged with one count of arson to an inhabited structure, nine counts of arson to property, and either counts of use of accelerant to set a fire. Bishop is a resident of the City of Pittsburg and previously of El Monte in Southern California.
The arrest of Bishop is a result of a close coordination within a task-force comprised of Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Investigations Unit, the Lafayette Police Department, the Concord Police Department, California Highway Patrol, and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office.
Beginning in the first week of April of this year, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Fire Investigations Unit (CCCFPD FIU) noticed an uptick in vehicle fires in our jurisdiction. These fires share several commonalities, among them, the use of accelerant to set fire to the exterior of the vehicle. CCFPD FIU began to review vehicle fires going back to the beginning of 2017, and identified several fires that appeared to be related.
As the investigation progressed, an older Toyota RAV4 was identified through security video provided by homes and businesses close to the fire occurrences. In that same period of time, there was a sharp increase in the number of occurrences as the work of a serial arsonist, and shared information and coordinated with our local law enforcement agency partners.
Last week, alarming increases in frequency of fire occurrences led CCCFPD FIU to work with law enforcement agency partners to assemble a task force. As we were in that process, investigative leads help us identify a vehicle and suspect, who was taken into custody. That person is James Bishop III, resident of Pittsburg. He was driving a 1996 Toyota Rav4 at the time of the arrest.
At this time, CCCFPD FIU and partner agencies are investigating 30 or more incidents possibly related to this series, and we are asking for help from the public and the media. If you live in an area where there has been a recent car fire and you have information that may be of use, such as security camera images of vehicles matching the image of the Toyota RAV4 or of Bishop, or of the fires themselves, please contact our Arson Tip Line at (866) 50-Arson.
We are still investigating this series of fires and cannot provide any additional information at this time. It is important to note that since the arrest of Bishop, reports of vehicle fires in our area has dropped back to what is typical rate of occurrences, and none have shared the characteristics common to the series we are investigating.