News / USA

California Blazes Under Control, Suspect Held

  • Chase and Brittany Boslet take pictures of smoke from the Las Pulgas fire burning on the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton near Oceanside, California, May 16, 2014.
  • Smoke plumes rise behind the Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton entrance in Oceanside, California, May 16, 2014.
  • Marines move military vehicles near the entrance to Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in front of smoke plumes from the Las Pulgas wildfire burning on base, May 16, 2014.
  • Midi Teng carries the family dog, Pup, out of the car as he arrives home from wildfire evacuations in Carlsbad, California, May 16, 2014.
  • Firefighter Philip Pinal, of Cal-Fire Lions Valley, searches for burning embers in a devastated home after a wildfire in Carlsbad, California, May 16, 2014.
  • A woman douses water from a hose around her home as her neighbor's home burns during a wildfire in Escondido, California, May 15, 2014.
  • A helicopter transporting water flies over trees during a wildfire in Escondido, California, May 15, 2014.
  • Travis Lowell takes a picture as smoke from wildfires rises in Carlsbad, California, May 14, 2014.
VOA News
A man has been charged with setting one of nearly a dozen wildfires that have destroyed or damaged dozens of homes and burned nearly 11,000 hectares of brush land near San Diego, California.   

A 57-year-old man, Alberto Serrato, pleaded not guilty Friday to an arson charge in connection with a 42.5-hectare blaze in suburban Oceanside that is now fully contained after starting Wednesday. Tanya Sierra, a spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney's office, tells the Associated Press witnesses saw Serrato adding dead brush onto smoldering bushes, which flared.  Sierra said Serrato has not been connected to any other fire.

Serrato faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Two teenagers also were arrested Thursday after police said the suspects started at least two brush fires in San Diego's Escondido area.

The blazes marked an intense, early start to California's wildfire season, but authorities say most of the fires appeared to be dying down.

Cooler weather heading into the area is expected to help firefighting efforts.

Thousands of suburban San Diego residents forced to flee the wildfires threatening their communities have gradually been allowed to return home as firefighters gain ground against the blazes burning in and around California's second-largest city.

Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the causes of the blazes that destroyed at least eight homes and an 18-unit condominium complex, emptied neighborhoods and spread flames, smoke and ash that polluted the air as far north as Los Angeles County.

As of Thursday, for the first time this century, all of California is in a severe drought — or worse. The three worst levels of drought are severe, extreme and exceptional and the entire state is now in one of those three categories.

Some information for this report provided by AP and Reuters.

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Comment Sorting
by: highsierra58 from: tahoe
May 17, 2014 7:07 PM
From what I understand they only saw this guy adding brush to the fire, not starting the fire.

He could claim that he was contributing to the fuel reduction effort and at the most be charged with burning trash without a permit.

by: Richard Flint from: Golden, CO
May 17, 2014 6:48 PM
Why is an arson fire referred to as a 'wildfire'?

by: David from: San Diego
May 17, 2014 5:34 PM
Jonathon .I think what you are referring to is called JUSTICE. We kinda dig that here in the States.

by: Neil Wright from: Seattle
May 17, 2014 5:18 PM
Johanthon Harker...what an ignorant comment. Did you not even read the article? Arson is certainly blameworthy.

by: Donna Ahern from: Boise,Idaho
May 17, 2014 5:17 PM
California is going to see a lot more fires. All over the West will . There's droughts in every state. With all the charred land there will be more flooding .

by: American patriot from: The colony
May 17, 2014 5:11 PM
At least there is sunlight in SOCAL you ignorant limey

by: Johanthon Harker from: UK
May 17, 2014 4:07 PM
Every time fires start in California it becomes a blame game of the authorities trying to pin it on someone. The fact is the place is a tinder box full of dry brush and any number of causes could be to blame.
In Response

by: Jim C. from: CA USA
May 17, 2014 5:24 PM
People are eager to blame specific fires on individual humans but resist blaming larger root causes of fires (e.g. global warming) on humanity in general. There's also a "people like US can't be causing any problems" mentality. Everything is someone else's fault.

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