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OFFICIALS SAY RECENT FIRES MOSTLY ARSON INVESTIGATORS LOOKING FOR WITNESSES.

Byline: CAROL ROCK Staff Writer

CASTAIC -- Several small brush fires along the Interstate 5 corridor north of Castaic appear to be arson, sheriff and forestry officials said Monday.

The area has been the site of 14 fires in the past five days, the most recent a brush fire that started early Monday morning when a car went over the side of the road in the Angeles National Forest.

Fire officials were able to contain the fire to 30 acres because they were in the area looking for the suspected arsonist.

``We strongly suspect that nine of the 14 are arson, especially those in the Castaic area where several were in close proximity,'' said Stanton Florea, Forest Service spokesman.

Florea said forestry firefighters try to ascertain the point of origin and cause of the fire before turning the investigation over to law enforcement.

``It's not confirmed that they were arson, but the timing and location make them suspicious,'' said detective Richard Edwards of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's department arson and explosives unit.

``Our investigation is ongoing. If anyone witnessed something when they were driving in the area or other facts about the fires, we'd appreciate the information.''

A series of controlled burns, aimed at giving hand crews live fire training, were conducted at remote portions of Pitchess Detention Center near Castaic on Monday and will continue, weather permitting, through the week.

They are scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through the week, county Fire Inspector Jason Hurd said.

``Less than 10 acres a day will be burned and they are not burning more than an acre at a time, under very controlled circumstances.

``These exercises are very important to prepare for the high fire season; we've already had several fires in the area already this year. This gives our hand crews valuable training.''

carol.rock(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5252
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 20, 2006
Words:314
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