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Teen charged in Santa Clarita brush fire

August 8, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A wildfire in Santa Clarita that scorched 43 acres of dry brush is fully contained, authorities said. The blaze was reported about 2 p.m. near Copper Hill Drive and Haskell Canyon Road in the Saugus area, authorities said. The fire is believed to have started in the 21100 block of Altena Drive.

Lt. Don Kunitomi with the Los Angeles County Fire Department said mandatory evacuations were ordered of about 30 homes on Brookview Terrace, Canterwood Drive and Cross Creek Drive. The evacuations were later canceled, and no structures were damaged, although the flames brushed up against some backyards.

About 195 firefighters were called in to battle the fire, officials said. Four-water dropping helicopters made runs over the fire.

A 14-year-old boy has been booked on suspicion of arson while another boy, also 14 years old, was arrested then released, said Capt. Mike Parker of the Los Angeles Sheriff's Headquarters Bureau. Investigators determined the fire was started when one of the boys was smoking marijuana in a pipe and dropped the 8-inch barbecue iron he was using to light the pipe in the dry brush.

Authorities said the teen admitted to starting the fire but he said it was an accident.

The boys apparently tried to put out the fire, but ran away as it began to spread, Parker said.

"We noticed a kid coming out of the bushes...sweating and panting, running away from the fire," said a witness who only wanted to be identified as Daryl. "I don't know if he started it, but it looks suspicious when he's running away and everyone is coming up."

Another witness said they also saw the boys running from where the fire appeared to have started.

"We were able to asses that this was an arson thing, this is a bad situation," said Carmen Terranova of Santa Clarita.

Two other people, Anthony Fierro, 33, and a 16-year-old boy, were arrested for refusing to obey orders to leave the area.

"They came into the fire area itself, were hampering the air drops and distracting the firefighters who were actually on the line," Sgt. Brian Allen said. "Despite several warnings, they were eventually taken into custody."

"Fierro lives half a mile away from the area and had no business near the fire," Parker said. "At one point he was escorted away from the area, and he made an obscene gesture at deputies, then went back to the fire area."

The teen, who also lives in the neighborhood, was found in the fire area wearing no shoes or shirt, Parker said.

"He said he was helping stamp out the fire," Parker said. "These two were getting too close to the fire area and were constantly having to be chased. They evaded and avoided firefighters and sheriff's deputies, who had to protect them from themselves."

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries.

CNS and the AP contributed to this report.


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