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Police arrest South Santa Clara County arson suspects

Two men accused of setting fires throughout South County

Police arrested a man they say confessed Tuesday to setting 15 fires in southern Santa Clara County.

The news comes only days after police arrested another man suspected of intentionally setting a fire in Gilroy during the previous week.

Daniel Catano, 32, was arrested on suspicion of multiple counts of arson as well as for burglary, auto burglary, theft, resisting arrest and possession of stolen property, according to a news release July 11 from the Morgan Hill Police Department.

The arrest was a result of an investigation into a series of suspicious fires in Morgan Hill and Gilroy since April.

The most significant fires include one in which a housing development under construction on Depot Street in Morgan Hill was burned to the ground, police said. 

Catano is also suspected of setting at least eight other fires in Gilroy and committing an auto burglary July 10 in Morgan Hill, when one of the victims—an off-duty officer—followed the suspect, who was able to evade officers.

Following reports from witnesses who observed someone setting a fire Monday night at Hale Avenue and Llagas Road in Morgan Hill, police received mutual aid from the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, San Jose Police Department’s helicopter and Campbell Police Department’s Drone operators. Two K9 units were used to search the large area and were unable to locate the suspects after a four-hour grid search.

A witness helped lead authorities to Catano and police arrested him early in the morning July 11.

Police said during an interview of Catano that he confessed to setting as many as 15 fires. Catano was booked at Santa Clara County Jail. He remains in custody on a $1,025,000 bail, and is due in court July 13. 

The arson incidents included dumpster fires, vegetation fires and a pump shed fire near the Morgan Hill Community Park duck pond, police said. Many of the fires occurred along the Monterey Road corridor from Tennant to Main avenues. 

Fires allegedly set by Daniel Catano in recent weeks include a pump house fire near the Morgan Hill Community Park duck pond. Photo Courtesy of Morgan Hill Police Department

On July 10, an employee at a business in north Morgan Hill called police to report a man attempting to break into the building resembled a suspect wanted by Gilroy Police, according to MHPD. When the suspect was confronted, he fled and broke into some vehicles in the parking lot, stealing a wallet and other items. 

Later on July 10, as the suspect, later identified as Catano, was fleeing the scene of the fire he set near Hale and Llagas, he entered a home on Peebles Avenue and fought with the residents before fleeing again, police said.

The statement from Morgan Hill Police said officers were grateful for the assistance of the Gilroy Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, Campbell Police Department, San Jose Police Department, California State Parole and the Piedmont Police Department captain.

On July 7, Gilroy Police arrested a man for reportedly setting fire to a business on First Street.

Chase Harlow, 26, of Gilroy, was arrested at about 4pm after investigators linked him to a fire set at a business on the 800 block of First Street the previous week. Harlow was transported to Santa Clara County Jail for charges related to the fire, as well as a robbery that happened earlier in the week at a business on the 8800 block of San Ysidro Avenue.

As of July 12, he remains in custody with no bail set. He is next due in court on July 13.

Investigators say it is unknown if Catano and Harlow were acting in concert with one another.

This investigation is ongoing, and anyone who may have information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Detective Scott Martin at 669.253.4981 or email at [email protected]. In Gilroy, anyone with information is asked to call Detective Catalina Fraide at 408.846.0335. Tips can also be submitted anonymously by calling the tip line at 408.846.0330.

Copyright © 2023 Bay City News, Inc.

Police released this map which shows where many of the fires intentionally set by suspect Daniel Catano occurred. Photo Courtesy of Morgan Hill Police Department

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