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

September 24, 2009 |  2:04 pm

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

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