Over the last several weeks, the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) has been investigating a series of arson related trash can fires. The incidents occurred on December 22, 2018 and January 1 and 3, 2019.

On January 3, 2019 at about 5:20 p.m. officers responded to a radio call for service of a trash can fire in an alley of the 2800 block of Montana Avenue. Santa Monica Fire Department responded and extinguished the fire.

SMPD Detectives and SMFD Arson Investigators responded for an investigation. During a preliminary investigation, information lead to a possible suspect in the most recent incident, Joseph Brent Burchett, a 57-year-old male. On January 3, 2019 at about 11:30 p.m., SMPD Officers located Burchett in the 1900 block of Arizona Avenue and took him into custody. SMPD Detectives are working to determine if there are any links to the previous incidents.

Burchett has been booked for 451(d) PC – Arson and remains in custody at SMPD Jail with a bail option of $50,000. On January 7, 2019 the case will be presented to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office-Airport Branch for filing consideration.

Anyone with information related to any of the incidents is encouraged to call the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8491; Detective Cooper at (310) 458-8478; or Sergeant Skogh at (310) 458-8992.


Submitted by Saul Rodriguez, Lieutenant

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  1. While waiting to pick up my spouse from work yesterday 1/4/19 around 530pm, there were sirens near 5th/Arizona. My spouse came out of work and motioned for me to get out of the car. Smoke and fire was coming up from behind the SM YMCA. Then today I read that this homeless man was arrested for suspected arson.

    My question . . . is this fire yesterday related to the string of fires being set in Santa Monica? And if so, how could this homeless man have been part of the fire near the YMCA if he was arrested on 1/3/19 and is still in jail???

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