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Firefighters snuff out a dozen grass fires, apprehend suspect

OCEANSIDE — A 911 call at 11:45 p.m. on Aug. 2 would later prove to be the first of a series of arson fires set along the San Luis Rey River and nearby vacant lots.Oceanside firefighters were in the final stages of extinguishing the first grass fire at a vacant lot at Mesa Drive and Foussat Road, that burned one acre and came within 200 feet of homes, when a second call reported a fire two miles away.

Nine separate fires were started at the second location in a field behind the San Luis Rey River near Redwood Street and Cypress Street.

While crews were putting out these fires, a third fire was reported at a vacant lot on Sherwood.

A radio call announced a description of the arson suspect leaving the area on a bicycle.

“One minute later the person described was seen riding his bike past a fire engine,” Battalion Chief Bill Kogerman said.

Firefighters spotted, apprehended and held the suspect until police arrived.

The suspect was found wearing a backpack that contained a gas can and a lighter. He was taken into custody.

“It’s something for us to capture an arson suspect,” Kogerman said. “It was pretty good work.”

Kogerman said the Fire Department is not releasing further information on the suspect at this time.

The fires were under control by 2 a.m. Aug. 3. A total of four acres were burned with individual fires destroying one acre or less. Oceanside, Camp Pendleton and North County Fire Departments responded.