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Transient arrested in Sebastopol feed store fire

  • A work crew from Ferina Trucking Inc. of Penngrove cleans up bales of burned hay Wednesday at Frizelle Enos Feeds in Sebastopol. (KENT PORTER / PD)

Sebastopol police Wednesday morning arrested a transient whom they say started the huge fire that destroyed Frizelle Enos Feeds, the town’s longest running business and a downtown landmark for 80 years.

Surveillance video from a nearby building caught the man apparently lighting matches and setting them at the base of hay bales, said Sebastopol Police Chief Jeff Weaver.

Saturday evening’s fire caused an estimated $2.8 million damage — a total loss of the building and the business.

Frizelle Enos Fire in Sebastopol

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Police readily recognized the man in the video — west county transient Steven Barton Edmonds, 53 — they’d arrested him 73 times since 2005, said Weaver.

He was known as a petty criminal, often drunk. And he’d just gotten out of the Sonoma County Jail four days before he allegedly set the fire, Weaver said.

As part of the fire investigation Sebastopol police and firefighters had been reviewing surveillance video from various downtown businesses, hoping to spot something.

Early Wednesday they watched the one that led to the arrest.

By about 8:45 a.m. Sgt. Mike Nielsen was looking for Edmonds. He found him about an hour later not far from the fire scene.

Edmonds was near the U.S. Post Office on Main Street — about a block from the blackened shell of the Frizelle Enos building.

“It’s good news. It helps put closure to it,” said Frizelle Enos Feeds owner Darrel Freitas.

“It’s unfortunate that it was really arson. It would have been better if it had been an accident. I’m glad they caught him,” said Sebastopol Mayor Michael Kyes.

Building owner Tennyson Tucker had a different reaction, saying he was relieved about the arrest and glad it wasn’t random.

“I was happy. I’m glad it wasn’t just an accident. Someone throwing a cigarette out. That’s kind of what I thought it was,” said Tucker.

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