Arrest made at Walker Fire |

Arrest made at Walker Fire

Staff Reports

Two men claiming to be media representatives wanting to cover the Walker Fire were detained on Monday after Mono County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the fire command post in Lee Vining.

Aaron Browne, 44, of Meadow Vista, Calif., and Payton Ware, 33, of Elk Grove, Calif., presented credentials that aroused the suspicions of the incident management staff.

Browne and Ware were dressed in new firefighter type gear, with a “Wildland Fire Fighter” hat on, with no designation of any identifying geographical area or crew name.

Browne was driving a white pickup truck full of fire and camping gear, including “line lunches” from several other fires.

A check was conducted on both Browne and Ware to verify their credentials, which revealed they had no media affiliation.

Deputies confirmed Browne was a felon. Browne and Ware were detained on scene and their vehicle searched. A hard case belonging to Browne was found containing a canister of pepper spray. Ware was released at the scene.

Browne was arrested for a felon in possession of pepper spray.

All charges against Browne are pending with the Mono County District Attorney’s Office.

On Tuesday, the 3,715-acre fire prompted another response by the Mono County Sheriff’s Office assigned to the Walker Fire.

At approximately 12:45 p.m., deputies responded to the Sawmill Campground on Tioga Pass for a report of stolen campsite property.

Campers in the Sawmill Campground saw a hiker in their camp space. A locked bear box had been broken into, and camping supplies were missing. The campers detained the hiker and contacted deputies.

Deputies and California Highway Patrol officers responded to the campsite, and found the stolen camping supplies. All property was returned to the campers.

The campers didn’t want to prosecute the transient hiker, who was released at the scene.

“This incident serves as a reminder to beware during the fire incident of looters,” Public Information Officer Jennifer Hansen said. “If you see any suspicious looking people or circumstances, please contact the Mono County Sheriff’s Office at (760) 932-7549 ext. 7 and report the incident.”