Suspicious fire destroys Buena Vista Valley house

Suspicious fire destroys Buena Vista Valley house

Suspicious fire destroys Buena Vista Valley house

The occupant of a home in the Buena Vista Valley was arrested after the structure burned to the ground during an early morning fire on Sunday, Nov. 12. Gustavo Arteaga, 37, was arrested and charged with four counts of arson in the first degree and remains in custody at the Pershing County Jail.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was notified of Arteaga's arrest according to the Pershing County Sheriff's Office. Artegea also had an outstanding warrant for a failure to appear.

On Nov. 12 at 3:58 a. m., the sheriff's office received a call from a neighbor of a house fire at 13800 State Highway 400. County fire crews responded from Imlay, Rye Patch and Lovelock.

Imlay fire crews were the first to arrive but the house was already fully engulfed and burned to the ground, said Imlay Fire Chief Jerry Monroe. The nearby structures were not damaged, he said.

“Got the call, went to it and there was nothing left by the time we got there,” Monroe said. “We put water on it so it wouldn't catch anything else on fire.”

Monroe said he did not encounter any occupants of the burning home or the nearby structures.

Pershing County Sheriff's Sgt. Mike Stephens and Deputy Adam Nicholson responded to the scene.

“There were maybe three to four other ranch structures, including a couple of trailers, a couple of little houses and a main house probably a hundred yards from the one that burned,” Deputy Nicholson said. “As far as I know, there was nobody else in the house (that burned).”

Sgt. Stephens said he became suspicious after speaking with Arteaga who was at a neighbor's house. A state fire investigator was called to the scene although Stephens said that is routine after structure fires.

“The original report came from a neighbor who was spooked by the fire and by one of the people involved,” Stephens said. “We responded and the story we got from the suspect was bizarre, to say the least, and didn't make any sense. So we knew at that point that we needed to investigate further.”

Stephens confirmed the state fire investigator found evidence the fire may not have been accidental.

“There's reason to believe it was arson,” he said.

Stephens also said that Arteaga appeared to be the only occupant of the burned structure and that he worked for the owner of the property. The suspect was not injured by the blaze but had minor lacerations, possibly from walking through brush. Arteaga was treated for the injuries and medically cleared at Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca before he was taken into custody, Stephens said.

At his arraignment last week in the Lake Township Justice Court, Arteaga's bail was reduced from $200,000 to $50,000 and his preliminary hearing was set for November 29 at 9:30 a. m.