SANTA ANA — Orange County arson investigators say a 22-year-old Lake Forest man questioned in connection with the county's recent rash of destructive fires was somewhere else the day of the Oct. 27 Laguna Beach blaze and is not an arson suspect.
Minh Quang Tran, however, remained in custody in Orange County Jail in lieu of $10,000 bail after authorities said they found Orange County Fire Department gear, including phony picture identifications, in his car.
"Our investigators followed up with him pretty well and it seems pretty obvious to us that he's not an arson suspect for us," said Orange County Fire Capt. Dan Young.
Investigators arrested Tran about 2 p.m. Wednesday after the owner of The Uniform Center in Orange grew suspicious about the man's claim to be a firefighter. Tran had asked to purchase an official Orange County Fire Department uniform, investigators said.
Investigators said Tran had a firefighter's helmet and jacket, two Orange County Fire Department badges, patches and an emergency-band radio scanner in his car. The department never issued the equipment to Tran, Young said.
Tran, booked on suspicion of receiving stolen property and impersonating a firefighter, was to be arraigned today.
Tran declined to be interviewed by reporters, as did a woman at his home who identified herself as his mother. But investigators said Tran told them he had nothing to do with the fires and was in class when the Laguna Beach fire started.
Investigators confirmed that Thursday. "He was in class at Cal State Fullerton," Young said.
Young said other agencies investigating arson fires in the Southland are interested in interviewing Tran, who has previous arrests for burglary.