An abandoned car on Grizzly Peak Boulevard after a collision incident involving a man charged with starting a wildfire in the area. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

A 24-year-old Concord man has been charged with starting the wildfire that scorched 20 acres in the East Bay hills beginning Wednesday, Aug. 2, according to court documents.

Alfredo Bautista allegedly told police that the Grizzly Peak fire was one of eight he started in the area, using a lighter that was found in his possession when he was detained.

Along with arson causing great bodily injury, Bautista is being charged with attempted second-degree robbery, assault with force and unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle, all felonies.

According to court papers released by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, Bautista approached an occupied car on Grizzly Peak Boulevard on Wednesday morning, pointing a rifle at the motorists. When they attempted to drive away, Bautista allegedly followed them in his car, crashing into them and pushing their car into another parked vehicle. Bautista fled the scene, only to be found and detained by UC Berkeley police on Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory property later that afternoon, the statement said. The lab briefly went on lockdown, lab spokesman Jon Weiner told Berkeleyside last week.

When UCPD detained Bautista at the lab around 2 p.m., recognizing him based on the description of the suspect in the collision case, he was attempting to get into a stolen car, police said. Bautista was shirtless during both incidents.

He “later made the voluntary admission that he was the person who started the fire on Grizzly Peak near Signpost 14,” the report said. (This contradicts early reports from Oakland Fire Department that the fire started at Signpost 15, which is south of 14. Both are just north of the Tilden Steam Train.)

The fire had started about an hour earlier on UC Berkeley property and quickly jumped east over Grizzly Peak to Tilden Park. Up to 150-200 firefighters from several different agencies tackled the blaze, and an inmate firefighter was injured when he fell down a hill.

By Thursday morning, the fire was 50% contained, and crews worked throughout the weekend to extinguish hotspots and chop trees to prevent it from spreading. By Friday, the fire had been reduced to “patrol status.”

On Thursday, UCPD said the fire was being investigated as arson, though the Oakland Police Department said a connection between the fire and the collision and firearm incident had not been determined at the time.

Bautista is being held at Santa Rita Jail on a $335,000 bail. He pled not guilty and is scheduled for a pre-trail hearing on Aug. 15, according to the DA’s office.

This story was updated with new information. 

Natalie Orenstein reports on housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. Natalie was a Berkeleyside staff reporter from early 2017 to May 2020. She had previously contributed to the site since 2012,...