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Destructive California wildfire was 'intentionally set'

By Jessica Baker, CNN
updated 6:41 PM EDT, Wed July 9, 2014
Residents watch a wildfire near San Diego on Friday, May 16. Wildfires devoured more than 20,000 acres in San Diego County after a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to the parched state. Residents watch a wildfire near San Diego on Friday, May 16. Wildfires devoured more than 20,000 acres in San Diego County after a high-pressure system brought unseasonable heat and gusty winds to the parched state.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Investigators in San Diego County say destructive Cocos Fire was intentionally set
  • An unidentified minor has been accused in the case
  • Officials say 36 homes along with a business were destroyed in the fire
  • The Cocos Fire was one of a wave of fires there in May

(CNN) -- A wildfire that destroyed at least 36 homes and one business in Southern California in May was set intentionally, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department announced Wednesday.

A minor whose name has not been released has been identified as the person accused of setting what authorities have coined the Cocos Fire. Three people were injured in the blaze, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The Cocos Fire scorched almost 2,000 acres of land before a crew of more than 500 firefighters was able to contain it eight days after it started. The fire was one of dozens that erupted in the region as California battled severe drought conditions and temperatures reached record highs.

Investigators have not linked the suspect in the Cocos Fire to any of the other fires, according to the Sheriff's Department.

The case has been forwarded to the district attorney's office.

In all, 176,000 evacuation notices were sent out throughout San Diego County in response to the wave of wildfires.

Fire season in Southern California typically starts late in the summer and extends into fall. But San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob said in May that the area now contends with a "year-round fire risk."

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CNN's Amanda Watts contributed to this report

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