A 27-year-old man pleaded not guilty Wednesday to arson and other charges stemming from an August 2019 brush fire that burned 45 acres in Eagle Rock and forced the closure of portions of two area freeways.
Daniel Michael Nogueira is charged with one felony count each of use of a destructive device and explosive to injure or destroy and arson of a structure or forest, along with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon involving a “firework mortar” involving two alleged victims, according to the criminal complaint filed March 22.
It took firefighters two days to fully contain the wildfire, which wound up jumping the Ventura (134) Freeway and threatened some homes, although none ultimately burned. The blaze sent a large plume of smoke visible across the basin, and forced the closure of stretches of the 134 and Glendale (2) freeways.
Authorities said the fire started near a homeless encampment adjacent to the Glendale Freeway.
NBC4 reported at the time that someone inside a blue pickup truck exchanged words with occupants of the homeless camp then tossed an incendiary device toward the encampment.
Two people at the encampment suffered minor injuries, and a firefighter was hurt while fighting the blaze, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
Nogueira — who lived in Eagle Rock at the time — was arrested by Los Angeles Police Department detectives less than a week after the Aug. 25, 2019, blaze, authorities said. Jail records show that he was subsequently freed on $1 million bail the day after his arrest.
He is now free on his own recognizance with the conditions that he not own or use any type of destructive devices and not stop or loiter near any homeless encampments.
Defense attorney Alan Jackson told a judge that his client had no criminal history and doesn’t pose any flight risk.
Nogueira could face up to 10 years and four months in state prison if convicted as charged, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors declined to file charges against another 27-year-old man, Bryan Antonio Araujocabrera, who lived in Pacoima at the time, saying that the only evidence against him was that he was a passenger in a truck that Nogueira was allegedly driving.
“Phone GPS also puts Bryan near the scene of the crime at the time of the incident, but mere presence is not enough under aiding and abetting liability,” according to a charge evaluation worksheet from the District Attorney’s Office.