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Federal Agency to Take Lead in Malibu Fire Investigation

Although the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office declined to file charges against two firefighters suspected of setting last fall’s deadly Calabasas/Malibu brush fire, federal investigators are continuing their probe of the Nov. 2 blaze, a government spokesman said Friday.

John D’Angelo, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, said the agency would take over the lead role in the ongoing review of the fire, which killed three people and caused $375 million in damage as it blackened coastal hillsides from Calabasas to the ocean.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, which spearheaded earlier parts of the investigation, will continue to offer support, he said.

D’Angelo said he could not comment on whether the continuing investigation would involve firefighters Steven Shelp and Nicholas Durepo, named as suspects in the fire before a county grand jury that disbanded without returning indictments against them.

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Last week, Deputy Dist. Atty. Sally Thomas announced at a news conference that no charges would be filed against the firefighters for lack of evidence. Spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said the district attorney’s office would cooperate with federal officials.

D’Angelo said the BATF has the authority to investigate fires that disrupt interstate commerce.


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