A Columbia firefighter accused of arson pleaded not guilty Thursday in Calaveras County Superior Court.
Cody Jon Emanuel Anderson, 18, of Altaville, is being charged by the Calaveras County District Attorney’s office with arson, possession of an incendiary device with the intent to set a fire and contributing to the delinquency of a minor for his alleged involvement in a series of suspected arson fires in the Angels Camp area.
Cal Fire has released little information about the investigation that led to Anderson’s arrest, but his family and friends have professed his innocence.
“He hasn’t done anything,” said Cody’s father, George Anderson.
Anderson was arrested by Cal Fire investigators July 12 at Columbia Fire Department on Jackson Street, where he had been recently hired as a paid volunteer firefighter. He was initially booked into Tuolumne County Jail, but was transferred days later to Calaveras County.
Cal Fire Prevention Bureau Battalion Chief Katrina Blumer, who is leading the investigation, declined to release the exact dates, locations and sizes of the fires being tied to Anderson.
Cal Fire arrested three juvenile boys July 2 in connection with the fires as well.
Blumer said in a Wednesday interview that a 16-year-old boy was charged with 12 counts of arson and two 15-year-olds were each charged with one count of arson.
According to Blumer, details have remained mostly under wraps because the investigation is ongoing.
“We’re not releasing any other information that could jeopardize our case,” she said.
Anderson just turned 18 on June 9 and graduated from Calaveras County Firefighter Academy on June 16, his father said.
George Anderson said that the fire his son is accused of starting was the night of his graduation, but Cody had been with family all day and went to a local pizza parlor after the ceremony to celebrate.
According to George Anderson, the fire in question was at Highway 4 and Red Hill Road, and the burned area was about 10-by-10-feet.
He also said the incendiary devices Anderson was accused of possessing were flares that he was allowed to have as a firefighter.
“He decided he wanted to be a firefighter years ago. He always wanted to help people,” George Anderson said about his son.
Columbia Volunteer Fire Engineer Frank Cooke said Anderson started fighting fires as a cadet three years ago at Altaville-Melones, where Cooke also works.
“The kid has dedicated his life to being a firefighter for the past three years,” Cooke said. “Cody hates fires just as much as any other firefighter.”
Cooke described Anderson as “one of the most dedicated kids” he’s ever met and thinks of him as his “little brother.” Cooke said he and his wife have even hired Anderson to babysit their children in the past.
“I wouldn’t trust him with my kids if I thought he was capable of something like this,” Cooke said.
Anderson started working at Columbia Fire four days before his arrest and had completed two full shifts, Cooke said. Anderson also had multiple scholarships at Columbia College Fire Academy for the upcoming semester, where he planned to take fire technology classes, according to Cooke.
Cooke said he believes Anderson will ultimately be vindicated, but fears what it means for his future as a firefighter.
“I have no doubt he’s going to be cleared of everything,” Cooke said. “But, honestly, the damage to his career is already done.”