Thursday, November 1, 2007

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Officials blamed a wildfire that consumed more than 38,000 acres and destroyed 21 homes last week on a boy playing with matches, and said they would ask a prosecutor to consider the case.

The boy admitted to sparking the fire on Oct. 21, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Sgt. Diane Hecht said Tuesday. Ferocious winds helped it spread quickly.

“He admitted to playing with matches and accidentally starting the fire,” Sgt. Hecht said.

Police did not release the boy’s name. Los Angeles County fire Capt. Michael Brown only would say yesterday that he was younger than 13.

The boy was released to his parents, and the case will be presented to the district attorney’s office, Sgt. Hecht said. It was not clear whether he had been arrested or cited by detectives.

Arson investigators first talked to the boy’s parents on Oct. 22 after determining the blaze began the previous day in the back yard of their Agua Dulce home, Capt. Brown said.

The home was not damaged in the fire, he said.

Investigators initially considered a downed power line as the source of the fire, but never officially listed it as the cause.

The blaze, which spread quickly through the neighborhood, was among 15 or so major wildfires that destroyed some 2,100 homes and blackened 809 square miles from Los Angeles to the Mexican border last week. Seven deaths were blamed directly on the fires, six evacuees died of natural causes and one person died of a fall.

Authorities arrested five persons for arson during that period, but none have been linked to any of the major blazes.

All but four of the blazes now are fully contained. Firefighters continued to cut lines around the remaining fires yesterday and kept a close eye on the weather.

Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Deputy Maribel Rizo said prosecutors had yet to determine whether the boy’s parents would be held accountable for any financial losses caused by the fire. Deputy Rizo did not know when prosecutors would be given the case.

Forecasters have said moderate Santa Ana winds could pick up later in the week.

Investigators have blamed an arsonist for setting a destructive wildfire in Orange County that blackened 28,500 acres and destroyed 16 homes.

Authorities were seeking the driver of a white Ford F-150 pickup truck spotted in a canyon area around the time the fire broke out. They said they wanted to talk to the driver, but stopped short of calling the person a suspect.

Officials offered a $285,000 reward to anyone with information that will lead to an arrest and conviction.

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