Investigations into causes of fires continue

REGION — Despite three arrests for alleged arson last week, investigators have determined the cause of only one of the more than 20 fires that burned through San Diego County last week.

To coordinate efforts to uncover the cause of the numerous fires, the county established the Joint Arson Task Force Information Exchange on May 14. The task force consists of representatives of all agencies investigating the fire, including Cal Fire, the San Diego Sheriff’s Department, the FBI, and local fire and police departments.

“They are working around the clock to determine the cause of all of these fires,” said Chet Bertell, a fire investigator and bomb technician for the San Diego Fire Department’s Metro Arson Strike Team.

Investigators are using a variety of methods to examine the fires, including scientific testing of the burn sites to collecting evidence and witness statements, according to Bertell.

So far, investigators have determined the cause of the Bernardo fire, which was started by construction equipment.

On May 15, the Escondido Police Department arrested two individuals for allegedly starting fires in Escondido.

Two witnesses reported seeing Isaiah Silva, a 19-year-old Escondido resident, and a 17-year-old resident, who is not being named because he is a minor, attempting to start small fires near South Escondido Boulevard and Kit Carson Park, according to police reports.

The fires were quickly put out and the two were arrested near the Westfield Mall in Escondido.

The District Attorney’s office decided not to press charges against Silva, citing lack of evidence, and he was released from custody on Monday. Officials would not comment on the status of the arrested juvenile because it is against state law.

Oceanside police officers arrested Alberto Serrato, 57, after allegedly witnessing him throwing brush into the fire that broke out in the San Louis Rey Riverbed on May 15, according to police reports.

Serrato is being held on $250,000 bail in the Vista Detention Center and is facing charges of arson of forest land.

To share tips about any of the San Diego County fires, witnesses can share information as well as fire photos and videos with law enforcement via Crime Stoppers at sdcrimestoppers.org or (888) 580-8477.

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