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16-year-old might have set a dozen Inland Empire brush fires, prosecutors say [Updated]

Detectives say a 16-year-old Yucaipa boy may have set up to a dozen fires in the Inland Empire over the last three years, including the large Oak Glen and Pendleton blazes.

[Update: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that detectives believe the suspect may be responsible for fires set only over the last month.]

Police arrested the teenager at 4:39 p.m. Wednesday near the scene of a fire in the Crafton Hills area. Authorities had been alerted by witnesses, who said a teen was riding a bicycle away from the fire on Chapman Heights Road. After interviewing the juvenile, officers arrested him on suspicion of arson.

He's being held on suspicion of setting that blaze, and officials said they are investigating whether he set the other fires, said San Bernardino County Dist. Atty. Mike Ramos. Ramos would not provide details about what officials believe links the boy to the other fires.

"It's early in the investigation, but we are looking at him in connection with multiple fires," he said. "It's a very serious case. Our county has had its share of fires in the last decade that have destroyed peoples' property, peoples' homes and peoples' lives."

Ramos added the department is considering trying the boy as an adult.

Earlier this month, a 13-year-old El Monte boy was charged with two felonies for allegedly starting the Morris Dam Fire on Aug. 25 that burned more than 2,100 acres north of Azusa, prosecutors said. The youth, whose name was withheld by prosecutors because of his age, is accused of felony arson of a forest and recklessly setting fire to a forest or structure.

-- Andrew Blankstein

Comments () | Archives (19)

I think they should fight fire with fire...

No offense, but their parents should be arrested along with them.

There are crimes that transcend the boundaries of age for prosecution, imo. And, this one certainly qualifies. After all, even a 5 year old could tell you that starting fires is wrong- much less a 13 or 16 year old.

The bigger tragedy is that the taxpayer ends up bearing all the costs of this crime- ie the costs of fighting the fire, the public insurance/ assistance that goes to victims, the court costs involved in trying him, and then the costs of incarcerating him. Then there are hidden costs that don't show up on paper immediately, such as insurance fraud, which ultimately results in higher insurance rates for everyone. And, at the end of his term, we have no assurances that he is even truly rehabilitated.

Where is the justice and restitution to society? Where is the justice to the firefighters who gave their lives trying to save life, land, and property? Where is the justice to the people's who's homes were destroyed?

There is clearly something severely wrong and broken with our educational system that produces even a single human being like this. . .

Our government, our elected officials, and educational system have completely failed us. This is just but a taste of the trouble up ahead if we don't do something now to correct the problems now...

Why can't parents teach their kids to responsibly play with matches? When I was a child we safely started fired in the woods with no incident. Kids today need to be taught to play with matches at an earlier age so this type of tragedy doesn't happen. What ever happened to responsible parenting? Get a grip, people.

Sue the parents. They are the responsible parties.

Maybe it is time to allow the victims to go to his home.
Take everything they own out into the street with a firetruck near by and burn the whole families belongings.
Might make a few more parents decide to keep a eye on their little satanic offspring.

Throw him in jail and toss away the key. And his parents should pay for the damage done, till the last penny. Unbelievable.

He's clearly a pyromaniac, nothing to do with the school system. Possibly nothing to do with the parents either. I once knew of a kid like that - scary fellow!

Certify this guy as an adult and give him the maximum prison time allowable...He's a lost cause, but his jail time will serve as a good deterrent for other potential firebugs...

It does start with the parents, but since the parents don't know how to parent, the kid should be sentenced to a hard labor jail for the rest of his life. If someone was killed then he gets the death sentence. He knows that it's wrong what he did, so he doesn't get another chance. Enough of this giving 2,3, and 4 chances to do good. Maybe if enough arsonists see this they might think twice about starting a fire.

Death penalty. The kid needs to learn. Age shouldn't matter.

I Have lived in the area during some of the destructive fires in the Inland Empire. I have family and friends still living up there and know some of the firefighters. I feel this boy should be tried and an adult and should be held accountable for all of the damage caused. In the most recent Redlands' fire two firefighters were hurt, assault charges should be added to the list. I also believe that the parents should be held accountable for not teaching this boy right from wrong.

These are the first kids to set fires. The Griffith Park fire a couple years back was set by some teenagers too. Looks like it might be a trend....
Maybe instead of pointing fingers and blaming the parents (without knowing anything about their parenting), we should look to education and the lack of social programs currently available to teenagers. Ages 11-18 are confusingly awkward times for kids in our society. They are supposed to act like adults, but they aren't treated like adults and don't know how. It's a life of hypocrascy and victimization. Everyone hates the teenager and everyone always has.
SO - They need constuctive activities and positive enviornments on a stable basis. If they don't have them, they react - obviously not in a positive way. Statistics show that gang membership happens at the same ages and for the same reasons: a lack of stable, positive enviornments.
If you want to point a finger. Point it at yourselves.


Don't blame this on schools or government. This is solely the parents responsibility to teach their kid right from wrong.

i bet the parent are feariuos at that boy

See what happens when the governor decides to cut funding for school and after-school activities? Yet another smart decision Terminator, excuse me, governor. In your mind you believe to be doing the most fiscally prudent thing, yet your decisions end up telling you..."I'll be back." Boo to you, governor! Too many people are suffering due to your bad decisions. Now the lives of two young people and thousands of displaced people are ruined because of you.

you can't blame parents,who knows what kids are up to.My brother was a louse all his life and looked and lied like an angel,

Smokey The Bear needs to have a word with him.

Is the death penalty even good enough for miscreants like this? I'm willing to give it the good ole college try before saying 'no'.


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