Pubdate: Wed, 28 Aug 2002
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2002 San Francisco Examiner


JULIAN -- Investigators suspect an arsonist set several fires that 
destroyed two homes and prompted evacuations early Tuesday near Julian, an 
eastern San Diego County town that recently fought off a 62,000-acre wildfire.

Five fires were reported about 3:30 a.m. and sheriff's deputies began going 
door to door warning residents to prepare to evacuate. The fires were 
burning within about a mile of one another; all but one were fully 
contained, said Lt. Guy Chambers, watch commander for the San Diego 
Sheriff's Department.

"We suspect it's arson," Chambers said. Given that dozens of homes were 
lost in the recent wildfire, he said, "for someone to purposely light a 
fire is pretty sad."

The largest of Tuesday's fires, a 100-acre blaze about five miles east of 
Julian, destroyed two homes and five other structures.

"We have it pretty much contained, but we're waiting for the winds. That's 
what's going to dictate where it goes," Chambers said.

The fire was reported 80 percent contained Tuesday afternoon. It was 
expected to be fully extinguished today, fire officials said.

About 350 firefighters were battling the blaze and there were no reports of 
injuries, said Audrey Hagen, fire information officer for the California 
Department of Forestry.

About 100 people voluntary left the small communities of Kentwood-in- 
the-Pines and Whispering Pines. The town of Julian was not immediately 
threatened, Hagen said.

The fires began in a canyon area of the rural region, about 60 miles 
northeast of San Diego. The area is spotted with brush and trees that have 
been dried out by drought.

Earlier this month, firefighters snuffed out the last remnants of the Pines 
Fire, which began on July 29 near Julian when a National Guard helicopter 
looking for marijuana plants clipped a power line.

That fire destroyed 37 homes, 116 barns and other outbuildings and 169 vehicles.
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