John Orr, a fire captain in Glendale, was charged with starting the blazes during and after a 1987 convention of arson investigators he attended in Fresno. Evidence against Orr included a fingerprint found on a piece of paper used to start a fire at Craft- Mart in Bakersfield, 107 miles south of Fresno, said Carl Faller, Assistant US Attorney.
Orr, 42, wrote a novel in 1990 about an arson investigator attending a conference who starts fires in Fresno, Bakersfield and Tulare. Those are the cities where the real fires occurred. Other details in Point of Origin, including how the fires were started, were close to the truth, a federal court jury was told. Orr, who was charged with starting five fires, was acquitted of causing two of the blazes. He faces up to 30 years in jail and a fine of dollars 750,000 ( pounds 395,000). He also faces a separate indictment in Los Angeles in connection with fires started during another arson investigators' convention in 1989.
Douglas McCann, Orr's attorney, said Point of Origin was based on information Orr gathered during his 17 years as a firefighter. He also questioned the accuracy of the fingerprint linking Orr to the Bakersfield fire. 'Because John Orr wrote a book about a fireman who sets fires doesn't mean he set those fires,' Mr McCann said.
Orr had been chief arson investigator in Glendale, a suburb of Los Angeles, until his arrest last December.