The Herald Bulletin

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July 9, 2014

Officials say juvenile started California wildfire

SAN DIEGO — Investigators who spent weeks examining photos and tips from the public have identified a juvenile as a suspect for intentionally starting the most destructive of nearly a dozen wildfires that ripped through Southern California this spring, officials said Wednesday.

The San Diego County District Attorney's office said a hearing has been set for July 30 for the juvenile, whose identity has not been released. Authorities would not say whether an arrest has been made nor provide any details other than to say the person is believed to be responsible for setting the Cocos fire, which quickly spread amid windy, dry conditions.

The blaze burned 36 houses and one business in San Marcos, a city of 85,000 north of San Diego. Investigators say the suspect is not believed to be linked to the other wildfires burning at that time.

The wildfires that erupted over a span of days in San Diego County prompted tens of thousands of evacuations and caused more than $20 million in damages.

The first blaze started May 13 and was caused by a spark from construction equipment, according to state officials.

Authorities arrested two youths in Escondido on suspicion of setting fires in that city, which is near San Marcos, but charges were later dropped for lack of evidence. Another man, Alberto Serrato, 57, was arrested and pleaded not guilty to an arson charge in connection with one of the smaller fires, but authorities say they don't believe he started it, just added brush to it.

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