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Boy who started Buckweed fire not charged
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office has decided not to file charges against a 10-year-old boy accused of playing with matches and starting the Buckweed fire, which charred 38,000 acres and destroyed 21 homes in the Agua Dulce and Santa Clarita areas last month.
Prosecutors determined that there was no evidence of intent on the boy's part, but they did refer the matter to the county Department of Children and Family Services for evaluation of the boy's home situation to determine if other intervention is necessary, said Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office.
"The evidence presented by sheriff's investigators was that the fire was caused by the 10-year-old boy playing with matches and accidentally igniting the brush. There is no evidence of intent on the part of the minor," Gibbons said.
Prosecutors did not identify the minor who started the blaze that led to the evacuation of 15,000 people.
Earlier this year, prosecutors refused to file charges against two teenagers who touched off a blaze that charred 160 acres in the Hollywood Hills. The boys, who were visiting Los Angeles from Linden, Ill., were playing with a lighter in the back of the Oakwood apartments when they accidentally set twigs on fire.
The boy in the Buckweed fire lived on a ranch northeast of Santa Clarita where his parents helped care for horses. People who knew him said he had no history of problems and was distraught about the destruction.
Though prosecutors say they won't pursue charges against the juvenile, his parents could possibly be held civilly liable for the damage. But the blaze caused millions of dollars in losses, and it is unclear whether his family could afford to pay even a fraction of that.
The blaze started Oct. 21, a day when ferocious Santa Ana winds fanned fires throughout the region. Since the fire, the boy has been removed from the ranch to stay with relatives elsewhere in California.
State fire officials say that generally when someone under 12 sets a fire, his or her actions are considered "playing with fire" and not arson.
In 2005, of 1,467 arson arrests in California, 52% were of juveniles, according to the California Department of Justice.
Nationwide, an FBI report found that in 2003, 50.8% of those arrested on suspicion of arson were juveniles; a third of total arson arrests were of children under 15, and 3% were of those under 10.