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16-year-old arrested for allegedly starting 475-acre Yucaipa fire

September 24, 2009 |  8:15 am

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested on suspicion of setting a fire that has burned about 475 acres in the Crafton Hills area between Yucaipa and Mentone, authorities said today.

Police arrested the teenager about 4:39 p.m. Wednesday after being alerted by witnesses, who said he was riding a bicycle away from the fire on Chapman Heights Road. After interviewing the juvenile, officers arrested him on suspicion of arson.

The wildfire prompted officials to close Crafton Hills Community College, but fire officials say it is now 60% contained, is no longer moving and is not threatening any homes. Firefighters used helicopters, air tankers and a DC-10 to battle the blaze.

“They did some really good work last night with the bulldozers and hand crews,” said Bill Peters, spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “The key will be to get through the heat of the day and to keep any hot spots from flaring up.”

Firefighters initially thought the small community of Mentone might be in danger, but Peters said the threat for now has apparently dissipated.

-- David Kelly in Temecula