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Public Safety

Sheriff: Cocos Fire Was Arson; Juvenile Suspect Identified

Military helicopter drops water on Cocos Fire
Nicholas McVicker
Military helicopter drops water on Cocos Fire

An underage arsonist set a San Marcos-area wildfire that blackened nearly 2,000 acres and destroyed 40 structures, most of them homes, authorities announced Wednesday.

The minor suspected of igniting the so-called Cocos fire on the afternoon of May 14 has been tracked down but will not be identified publicly because the alleged arsonist is underage, sheriff's officials said.

The case has been forwarded to the District Attorney's Office for consideration of possible criminal charges. An initial court hearing for the suspect in juvenile court has been scheduled for July 30.

The blaze was one of a spate of more than a dozen wildfires that erupted across North County amid critically hot, dry and windy conditions and went on to rage for days, burning down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes. Several apartments and commercial structures also were destroyed in the fires.

Investigators have found no evidence linking the suspect in the Cocos fire to any of the other blazes, sheriff's officials said.

During the spring firestorm, flames scorching tens of thousands of acres of brush across the county forced the evacuation of the Cal State San Marcos campus and temporarily closed numerous schools and businesses.

Damage to private property was estimated at $29.8 million. Officials set the costs of extinguishing the wildfires at $27.9 million.