SAN DIEGO (HNN) -- No-holds-barred journalist/American hero Geraldo Rivera traveled to southern California yesterday and personally put out all of the wildfires that have devastated the region. Additionally, he made a citizen's arrest on an alleged arsonist. Later, he visited refugees at Qualcomm Stadium and distributed food and blankets.
"He was amazing," said firefighter Ted Mortgagelender. "He arrived at the scene and commanded the winds to die down, and they did. And when he realized that he hadn't done it on camera, he commanded to winds to rise again and then nailed it again on the second take."
Rivera, whose take-no-prisoners brand of advocacy journalism has made him a legend among legends, summoned powers not previously known in any other TV reporter. In an interview with himself, Rivera said he expected nothing less.
"Some journalists simply write. I become part of the story," Rivera said. "I try to become THE story. That sets me apart from my brethren."
After putting out the fires, Rivera, with his camera crew breathlessly following, ran into the foothills near Escondido and spotted a man "who looked like an arsonist." Rivera chased the man, put him into a headlock and announced that he was making a citizen's arrest.
"Did you get that?" Rivera said to his camera crew.
The man, later identified as Osama bin Laden, 49, a Saudi Arabian national of no fixed address, was charged with arson. He was released on personal recognizance after posting $15 billion bail. Mark Spokesman, a spokesman for the Escondido Police Department said bin Laden promised to appear in court on November 16 to answer the arson charge.
"We have no reason to believe that Mr. bin Laden is a flight threat," Spokesman said, adding that he did not know where bin Laden had gone after leaving the police station.
After putting in an exhausting 20-hour day, Rivera still found time to visit Qualcomm Stadium, where nearly 20,000 refugees had streamed to shelter while the wildfires raged. Rather than take a well-deserved nap, Rivera instead worked through the night, distributing blankets, providing food and the occasional shoulder to cry on.
"The man is a saint," said Lisa Vasquez-Gonzales, 35, an illegal immigrant who took advantage of America's generosity by accepting food and shelter at taxpayer expense. "He should win the Nobel Prize or the Pulitzer or something."