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Two arrested for Highway 1 fire

Modified: Friday, Jun 21st, 2013

Kelly Hawkins, Mitchell Swienton.

SANTA CRUZ — Santa Cruz Police on Thursday arrested two people suspected of deliberately starting a grass fire that choked traffic near the Highway 17/Highway 1 interchange.

Kelly Nichole Hawkins, 30, and Mitchell Edward Swienton, 49, were booked into Santa Cruz County Jail on arson charges.

Additionally, Hawkins was charged with being under the influence of narcotics, and a probation violation.

Santa Cruz Police Officers and firefighters responded approximately 3 p.m. to assist in evacuations, traffic control and the investigation of the fire that started behind the Elks Lodge at 150 Jewell St.

Police say Hawkins was involved in a dispute with the Elks Lodge after her abandoned vehicle was towed from the building’s parking lot.

In addition to abutting a major intersection, the area borders wildland wooded areas. Investigators determined the fire was intentionally ignited at several points along a trail in the wildland area.

After setting a perimeter and obtaining information from witnesses, officers located Swienton running from the scene still carrying a butane lighter.

After hearing emergency dispatchers describe a female suspect, a First Alarm Security Officer spotted suspect Kelly Hawkins running into the Homeless Services Center at 115 Coral St. The officer called police officers, who located her near River Street and Highway 1.

Police say Hawkins has a significant history of arrest for drug related offenses. She is currently out of custody on probation four times over and has been arrested 10 times in the last year alone. The most recent probation was granted on May 23.

Investigators found evidence that both suspects were involved with the fire, and both made admissions of their participation, police said.

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