14-Year Old Boy Admits to Starting LA Wildfire
A helicopter sprays water over a wildfire on August 8, 2010. [AP]
August 09, 2010
SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — A 14-year-old boy who allegedly told deputies he dropped a lighter as he was trying to smoke pot in a field Sunday sparked a 40-acre blaze that briefly threatened some 50 homes and forced evacuations before it was contained, authorities said.
The boy from Saugus, one of four people detained in connection with the blaze, was booked on suspicion of arson, Los Angeles County sheriff’s Capt. Mike Parker said.
Another 14-year-old boy had joined the suspect and helped him try to put out the fire. When they failed they fled, and after tips from neighbors both boys were detained, Parker said.
Parker said when the first boy confessed he was arrested and the other boy was let go. No charges were planned for the second boy, Parker said. The boys’ names were withheld because of their age.
Also, a 33-year-old man and a 16-year-old boy who both stood dangerously close to the fire and ignored pleas from authorities to leave the area were arrested for obstructing firefighters, Parker said.
The two men were not connected but in separate incidents both prevented helicopters from dropping water and had to be rescued before they were arrested, he said.
The adult suspect, Anthony Fierro, ran from firefighters who tried to remove him, and when deputies arrived to detain him he made an obscene gesture at them and ran toward the fire, Parker said.
The teen, whose name was not released, was spotted running around in the fire zone without shirt or shoes. When he disappeared, authorities had to hold back water drops and other efforts while they looked for him. He returned to the area with different clothes and was arrested. Parker said the boy told deputies he was trying to help the firefighters.
“They endangered the community, endangered the firefighters and endangered our deputies,” Parker said.
Parker said it’s bizarre that even one person would interfere with a firefight in that way, much less two on the same day.
“This is extremely rare, especially in the Santa Clarita area, where the community is extremely cooperative and extremely helpful,” he said. “Most people have sufficient common sense to know that if we tell them to get out of the area, they need to get out. But some people think they know everything.”
Deputies reached by phone late Sunday did not know if any of the three suspects in custody had hired attorneys.
The fire was reported shortly before 2 p.m. in the Santa Clarita area about 40 miles north of Los Angeles, said county fire Inspector Frederic Stowers.
Deputies knocked on about 50 doors asking residents to leave before the fire moved north toward Los Padres National Forest and away from homes.
About 150 firefighters from multiple agencies and four water-dropping helicopters had it contained about three hours after it started, Stowers said.
Fire crews were up against hot weather and dry gusty winds, Stowers said.
“They’re dealing with brush that’s being pushed by the wind, and the firefighters had to use an aggressive attack to hold it that small,” he said.
Associated Press Writer Christopher Weber contributed to this report.