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Suspect identified in Atascadero grass fires 

A 14-year-old with a lighter seems to have sparked a busy afternoon for North County firefighters on July 18.

The Atascadero Fire Department responded to two vegetation fires near Atascadero Lake Park shortly after 2 p.m. Firefighters responded to and extinguished a burning patch of grass on the 9100 block of Morro Road, adjacent to the park. While they were handling that blaze, another nearby fire on the 8500 block of Piedras Altos drew the attention of units from Cal Fire and Templeton Fire District as well as the Atascadero Fire Department.

It was determined that a “male juvenile with a lighter” started both fires. The 14-year-old wasn’t detained but may face arson charges, said Atascadero Fire Caption Bill White. The District Attorney’s office is reviewing the case and will decide what charges to consider.

Neither fire caused property damage, though the second fire burned near four homes. White said that incidents like these are rare thanks to extensive education on fire prevention. The city also has an aggressive weed abatement program, which in this case helped minimize damage.

-- Melody DeMeritt - former city council member, Morro Bay

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