San Diego Fires Die Down as Arson Investigation Heats Up
A local landscaper allegedly witnessed the start of the Carlsbad fire and saw someone in a golf cart fleeing the scene, stopping to watch the flames for a brief time. Three suspects have been arrested on suspicion of arson in connection with the Oceanside and Escondido fires this past week. Most of the nine fires have been reported as having suspicious ignition points.
The Carlsbad landscaper managed to take video of the fire from the hill above, reports 10 News. The suspicious golf cart driver had already driven away when the landscaper began recording, but his video shows the trees engulfed in flames and follows the flames as they travel up the hillside.
San Diego has assembled a Joint Arson Task Force in an attempt to determine any connection between the fires.
Early on, officials, including County Supervisor Bill Horn and Carlsbad Fire Chief Michael Davis, expressed questions over the potential criminal element to the fires. Davis said, “Each fire will be looked at as a crime scene until it’s proven to be accidental” and that the investigation of the fires would be “a larger regional effort,” according to the Times.
Meanwhile, 10 News reported sources saying that all but one fire had suspicious ignition points. Since then, the Bernardo fire has been ruled accidental due to an incident involving construction machinery.
One death occurred during the Carlsbad/Pointsettia fire, but so far the medical examiner has not determined the identity of the “badly burned” body found in a known transient encampment, reports the L.A. Times. No word on how the deceased was caught in the midst of the fire.
Two teenagers were picked up after witnesses reported seeing two men starting fires in two separate Escondido locations, where at least one fire was started but quickly put out. 19-year-old Isaiah David Silva and a 17-year-old minor were in custody as of Friday. The two have not been connected to other fires in the area at this time.
Another man, Alberto Serrato, was picked up in Oceanside and has been charged with felony arson in Wednesday’s Oceanside "River Fire." Serrato pled not guilty despite being seen fanning the flames that would result in 105 acres burned, reported 10 News. No connection has been made between Serrato and the other fires.
Cal Fire currently reports over 25,000 acres burned in the multiple southern California wildfires. Another small fire erupted in Santee on Saturday but was quickly brought under control.
San Diego County Emergency released a preliminary assessment of damage as of Friday night that included 11 single family homes, 25 structures destroyed, and two homes damaged in the Cocos Fire. In the Carlsbad/Pointsettia fire, eight single family homes were destroyed or substantially damaged, one apartment building was destroyed, one apartment building was considerably damaged, two commercial buildings were destroyed/substantially damaged, and one modular building was destroyed. San Marcos reported one single family home as having been destroyed.