Burnt Body Found in Santa Ana Brush Fire

November 21, 2020 Updated: November 21, 2020

Firefighters responding to a reported brush fire along the Santa Ana riverbed trail discovered a burnt body beneath the flames—and police are investigating the incident as a possible homicide.

The partially burned body of a man was found when Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) firefighters were putting out the small shrubbery fire in Santa Ana, California, shortly before 3:30 a.m. on Nov. 19.

“Based on evidence of the crime scene, they believe it to be a homicide,” Santa Ana Police Department Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told The Epoch Times.

A resident on a bicycle first spotted the brush fire across the Santa Ana River near the 3000 block of West First Street and reported it to the authorities.

“At 3:30 [a.m.] there was a bicyclist that was on First Street, saw the fire, called the fire department. The fire department responded, put the fire out, and said, ‘Oh, there’s a body here,’ so obviously they called us,” Bertagna said.

Santa Ana police then responded. “Homicide was called out,” Bertagna said.

Bertagna said police are working with the Orange County Coroner’s Office to determine the actual cause of death and to find out who the individual is.

“I just talked to the commander in charge of Homicide and there’s no updates as far as who the person is. The deceased had no ID. And they’ve yet to identify that person,” he said.

OCFA Capt. Paul Holaday told The Epoch Times, “The call came in from a resident across the river channel who saw smoke and a small fire.”

Initially, the resident speculated that the fire “might be a homeless encampment.”

“In that area they have warming-type fires,” Holaday said, adding that firefighters classified the call as an “ornamental vegetation fire.”

“A single unit arrived, extinguished the fire, found the body, called Santa Ana PD and our investigators,” Holaday said.

The firefighters found the body “after they extinguished the fire,” Holaday said.

The cause of the fire, along with the identify of the victim, remains under investigation.

Anyone with information on the case is asked to call Santa Ana Police Department Homicide Section Detectives at (714) 245-8390, or Orange County Crime Stoppers at 1-855-TIP-OCCS.