One of 10 fires in California’s San Diego county has been deemed arson. A man has been arrested by authorities as scores of Marines and their families flee Camp Pendleton, which is being affected by the aggressive blaze.
Alberto Serrato, 57, pleaded not guilty on Friday and faces up to seven years in prison if convicted in the case of a 105-acre fire started in Oceanside on Wednesday — which is fully contained.
Serrato was arrested on Thursday. According to the spokeswoman for the San Diego County district attorney’s office, Tanya Sierra, witnesses saw the man add brush to the fire near some homes, but is not suspected of having started the fire in southern California.
In an unrelated fire, the Camp Pendleton public affairs office told Fox News that firefighters are aggressively battling one of three fires there, as at least 8,400 hundred people were evacuated from the base. Some have been allowed to return as the evacuation orders have been lifted on Saturday.
However, several areas in the camp and training school remain off-limits.
Ten fires sprung up between Tuesday and Thursday of last week, forcing residents to leave their homes, destroying 10,000 acres, and causing over $20 million in damages so far.
Firefighters faced a very difficult situation, after strong winds caused the fire to become extremely dangerous for homes located in its path.
About eight homes, an 18-unit condominium building, and two businesses have been destroyed by the fires in California.
— LHeal (@lheal) May 17, 2014
AM UPDATE: Cocos Fire in San Diego County at 1,200 acres, 5-percent contained. http://t.co/5OGDzODHeU pic.twitter.com/0kGHJODflv
— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) May 16, 2014
— Joel Makower (@makower) May 15, 2014
— Mashable (@mashable) May 15, 2014
Authorities investigating the California fires are trying to determine whether the fires were started by accident or arson. Investigators are suspicious since six of the fires in the area started within hours of each other on Wednesday.
Investigators will also analyze the ground for possible tire marks or footprints that could give them some clue as to how the fires in California were started.
An unusual combination of bone dry conditions and early Santa Ana winds happening in May are believed to be the possible cause of the fires that have affected southern California for the last week.
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