By Associated Press - Sunday, February 21, 2021

RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) - A California man was arrested for allegedly stealing hundreds of heaters used to prevent citrus trees from freezing.

The 29-year-old man was accused of taking the heaters, known as smudge pots, from farms in Mentone and the University of California Riverside Citrus Research Center in January, The Press-Enterprise reported Saturday.

Police arrested the man at his Calimesa home on suspicion of grand theft. He posted $100,000 bail and is scheduled to be arraigned in Riverside Superior Court in June.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department said the man was seen Jan. 12 at one of the Mentone farms loading smudge pots into his pickup truck. Employees attempted to stop him before he fled with 100 heaters. The man’s truck was seen again Jan. 24 leaving with 100 more heaters.

An employee at a second Mentone farm reported seeing the man take smudge pots on Jan. 28, police said.

The university was the victim of two burglaries of about 100 smudge pots with an estimated value of more than $10,000, university police said.

Peggy Mauk, the university‘s agricultural operations director, said thieves are known to sell smudge pots to recyclers for about $200 each or use them for heat on camping trips.

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