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Teen arrested for starting Yucaipa fire

September 24, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
Arson is being blamed for the Crafton Fire burning in Yucaipa, which broke out Wednesday.The fire began near Chapman Heights Road at about 4:30 p.m. and was fanned by strong winds. The fire had burned more than 350 acres and was 90 percent contained Thursday night.

Officers took a 16-year-old boy from Yucaipa into custody and booked him for arson. The teen is being investigated in connection with 14 other fires in Southern California.

Witnesses told authorities they saw the teen leaving the area on a bicycle. After a short search, deputies found the boy nearby.

Investigators think he may have started as many as 14 fires dating back to 2006. Among them, the Crafton Fire burning in Yucaipa, as well as the recent Oak Glen and Pendleton fires.

"Make no mistake: We consider this a very serious matter," said San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos. "And this district attorney's office is going to make this our priority as we go through this."

Crafton Fire was arson. The Oak Glen Fire was arson. The Pendleton Fire was also started by arson. Authorities believe they were each set by the 16-year-old suspect from Yucaipa.

Authorities say they have had previous contact with the teen at other fires in the past.

The flames have crested a ridge and are a potential threat to homes in the hills above the community of Mentone.

So far, no evacuation orders have been issued.

Day classes at Crafton Hills College have been canceled.

One firefighter has suffered a minor injury, hurting his ankle.

Eyewitness News Reporter Melissa MacBride contributed to this report.

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