Suspected cause of Cocos Fire is arson by juvenile
Cocos Fire was the fire that forced the evacuation of the campus at Cal State San Marcos, and also forced thousands of people in the San Marcos and Escondido area to flee. Wednesday night, the Sheriff’s Bomb Arson Unit, aided by Cal Fire and other agencies, say this frightening wildfire was the work of an underage arsonist. The vestiges of the Cocos Fire are everywhere. The neighbors who live along a San Marcos road say they’re sorry to hear that the fire may have been intentionally started by a minor.
“I don’t know how your kid can just be fine, and then one day set a fire like that. It’s crazy,” said San Marcos resident and homeowner Lauren Frost.
The same road in May looked very different, with smoke and flames as the Cocos Fire in San Marcos raced through nearly 2,000 acres and destroyed 40 structures – most of them homes. After poring through photographs and tips from the public, investigators say they were able to identify a juvenile as the person who purposely ignited the fire.
“This was an intentional act intended to burn down these residences,” stated criminal defense attorney Jan Ronis. “This is obviously very serious and the punishment, I would imagine given the limits of the juvenile court, would be severe.”
Ronis, who is not representing the suspect in the case, says the parents could be responsible for damages.
“There is a statute which imputes liability strictly to parents up to $25,000, so the parents would be liable by statute for up to $25,000.”
Resident Jim Buchanan’s backyard was left charred from the wildfire even though his home was not affected although two other homes of two other neighbors were. In the instance of one woman:
“She lost the house entirely. She lived there for 40, 50 years. Everything’s gone. How do you replace that? You can’t.”
Because the suspect is a minor, no name has been released. Investigators say it will be up to the District Attorney to decide if charges will be filed.
“As to whether I think charges will be filed, I think my opinion is yes, they certainly will be filed,” continued Ronis.
For Bill Tanner, recovery from the wildfire means looking forward, not back. His home was one of those that burned to the ground. Tanner doesn’t take the time to be angry.
“People do things like that, but at that age, it’s a terrible thing – he has his life ahead of him. Terrible.”
When asked if he is resolute about rebuilding his home in San Marcos, Tanner replied:
“Yes I am. As you can see, we’ve cleaned it up and cleared it away and I hired a contractor today to begin the groundwork, so it’s started.”
Authorities have not given the name of the suspect because the individual is a minor. This person will have to appear at a juvenile court hearing at the end of the month.