Updated 5:40 p.m.
Three people, including two teens, were in custody Friday for allegedly setting or adding fuel to small fires in North County as emergency personnel struggled to control devastating wildfires sweeping across the rest of the county.
One is facing arson charges and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office is assessing whether to file charges in the case of the teens, District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said Friday. The incidents were apparently unconnected to the more devastating blazes that have bedeviled the county.
Another man is in custody after entering an evacuated zone and behaving suspiciously.
In Oceanside, District Attorney Dumanis said the suspect, Alberto Serrato, 57, was charged Friday with arson and faces up to seven years in prison.
He was spotted in the San Luis River bed adding brush to an already active fire, the River Fire, which burned 105 acres
He had his bail increased from $75,000 to $250,000.
Oceanside police Lt. Val Sadaat said Serrato was allegedly spotted using something to fan the flames of the fire in the river bed. Serrato tried to run but didn’t get far and was arrested about 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Sadaat said.
The River Fire erupted east of College Boulevard in the early afternoon and was contained about 7:45 p.m. Authorities said one structure was damaged in the fire, one of more than a half-dozen that were burning in San Diego County at the time amid a Red Flag alert posted due to heat, winds and low humidities.
In Escondido Thursday, a witness spotted the teens as they allegedly set a fire near South Escondido Boulevard called police about 6:30 p.m. before extinguished the flames, police Lt. Neal Griffin said.
About an hour later, another person made an emergency call from an area near Westfield North County mall and said he was chasing two youths he saw trying to start a fire in Kit Carson Park off Interstate 15 and Bear Valley Parkway, according to Griffin.
The two suspects had similar descriptions to those from the first fire.
Officers went to that area and arrested Isaiah David Silva, 19, and a 17-year-old male, both of Escondido. The boy’s name was withheld because he is a minor.
Griffin said there was no immediate evidence linking the suspects to any of the large wildfires that have blackened about 20,000 acres and destroyed or damaged dozens of residences and businesses across the county.
Silva was booked into county jail in Vista on suspicion of a count of arson. He was being held in lieu of $50,000 bail pending arraignment, scheduled for Tuesday afternoon.
Police also have detained a suspect in Escondido who entered an evacuated area and parked in a driveway with a friend, said San Diego police Chief Shelly Zimmerman, whose officers aided in the fire-stricken area Thursday.
Brandon Leny Gunn, 29, who has a criminal history, Zimmerman said, could not demonstrate a reason to be in the 1600 block of Hamilton Lane and he was arrested on a felony theft warrant. He is being held on $75,000 bail in the Vista jail. The other man was released.
– City News Service contributed to this report.
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