Crews douse canyon fire in El Cerrito area: Boy, 13, admits starting canyon fire

Crawford HS, nearby apartment evacuated

SAN DIEGO - A teenage boy playing with a cigarette lighter sparked a several-acre brush fire next to Crawford High School Wednesday, prompting evacuations at the campus but causing no reported structural damage or injuries, authorities said.

The blaze began spreading through the El Cerrito-area gorge near 54th Street and University Avenue shortly before 2 p.m., pushed by gusty winds out of the south, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department.

Police directed everyone at the nearby secondary school -- which was mostly vacant of students due to a shortened class schedule for the day -- to clear out as a safety precaution, said Jack Brandais, spokesman for San Diego Unified School District.

Students at Crawford High School at first thought the school was being locked down.

"I was scared. We heard the bell and thought it was a lockdown; then they told us to evacuate and get to the baseball diamond. From there, we could smell and see the smoke," said student Isha Mkoma.

Ground crews and personnel aboard a water-dropping helicopter had the roughly two-acre burn area fully contained within about 45 minutes, fire department information officer Maurice Luque said.

"This brush was 20-feet high and hadn't been burned in some time. With the winds, it funneled the flames right up the hillside," said Luque.

Police detained a 13-year-old who admitted that he had accidentally ignited the blaze, according to police.

10News learned the boy tried to run across the road to a taco truck to get water, but the fire quickly raged out of control.

Luque said the boy was cooperative with fire investigators and was released to his mother.

Fire officials are recommending the boy get some psychological counseling through the Burn Institute.  

Fire officials said they will send a report to the District Attorney's Office, but will not recommend any specific action against the teenager.

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