Deputies: Cocos Fire was arson, suspect identified as juvenile

SAN MARCOS - The Cocos Fire that burned dozens of homes in the San Marcos area during the May firestorm was intentionally set, authorities announced Wednesday.

The San Diego County Sheriff's Department reported that investigators identified a juvenile suspect believed to have started the blaze, which broke out May 14. It was not fully contained until May 22.

The suspect's name was not released, nor did the sheriff's department disclose how the person was identified. Tanya Sierra, a spokesperson for the San Diego County Attorney's Office, told 10News via email that a hearing was scheduled for July 30 at 8 a.m. in Juvenile Court.

The nearly 2,000-acre Cocos Fire leveled at least 36 homes and one business. Among the structures destroyed within 24 hours of the blaze's beginnings near Cocos Drive were 25 structures at the Harmony Grove Spiritual Association, a century-old church retreat.

The fire also forced the evacuation of the Cal State San Marcos campus and temporarily closed numerous schools and businesses.

It was one of more than a dozen fires that sparked May 13 and 14 amid gusty Santa Ana conditions, triple-digit heat and extremely dry ground cover. Other major blazes included the Bernardo and Poinsettia fires, which scorched tens of thousands of acres. The Bernardo Fire was determined to have been accidentally sparked by a backhoe. The cause of the Poinsettia Fire is still under investigation.

In total, the wildfires burned down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes, according to county statistics. Several apartments and commercial structures were also destroyed.

Damage to private property was estimated at $29.8 million. Officials figured it cost $27.9 million to fight the blazes.

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

The Cocos Fire investigation was jointly conducted by the sheriff's department Bomb Arson Unit, Cal Fire, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms and the San Marcos Fire Department.

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