A man charged with arson in California has pleaded not guilty on April 16 in connection with a 105-acre fire in suburban Oceanside. Alberto Serrato, 57, wasn’t seen committing the arson, but witnesses saw him adding dead brush to smoldering bushes.
The fire started Wednesday that swept the San Diego region this week. It is now fully contained. However, Serrato is only connected to one of 10 fires.
The San Diego County sheriff’s website says Serrato was arrested Wednesday in Oceanside. He faces up to seven years in prison if convicted.
Two teenagers also were arrested Thursday after police said the suspects started at least two brush fires in San Diego’s Escondido area.
The blazes marked an intense, early start to California’s wildfire season, but authorities say most of the fires appeared to be dying down.
Cooler weather heading into the area is expected to help firefighting efforts.
Thousands of suburban San Diego residents forced to flee the wildfires threatening their communities have gradually been allowed to return home as firefighters gain ground against the blazes burning in and around California’s second-largest city.
Meanwhile, authorities are investigating the causes of the blazes that destroyed at least eight homes and an 18-unit condominium complex, emptied neighborhoods and spread flames, smoke and ash that polluted the air as far north as Los Angeles County.
As of Thursday, for the first time this century, all of California is in a severe drought — or worse. The three worst levels of drought are severe, extreme and exceptional and the entire state is now in one of those three categories.