Trial set for teen accused of igniting Cocos Fire

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SAN DIEGO – A 13-year-old girl will stand trial in a case accusing her of sparking the Cocos Fire in San Marcos that blackened nearly 2,000 acres and destroyed 40 structures, most of them homes, in May.

The judge set a trial date of March 10, 2015 for the unidentified teenager who pleaded not guilty to four felony charges of arson.

If the teen is convicted, she could face 13 years in jail and her parents could be held responsible for paying for the damages caused by the Cocos Fire.

“Whether it’s a juvenile or adult, the burden of proof is always the same – it’s beyond a reasonable doubt," said Deputy District Attorney Shawnalyse Ochoa. "The people will put all the evidence we have to prove each element of every charge that is on the petition. And we’ll proceed accordingly on March 10."

The blaze was one of a spate of more than a dozen wildfires that erupted in the San Diego area in critically hot, dry and windy conditions and raged for days, burning down 65 structures, including 46 single-family homes. Several apartments and commercial structures also were destroyed.

Investigators have found no evidence linking the suspect in the Cocos Fire to any of the other blazes, sheriff’s officials said.

During the spring firestorm, flames scorching tens of thousands of acres of brush across the county forced the evacuation of the Cal State San Marcos campus and temporarily closed numerous schools and businesses.

Damage to private property was estimated at a total of $29.8 million. Officials set the costs of extinguishing the wildfires at $27.9 million.

Before the trial, another hearing is scheduled for February 19.

“On the next hearing in February, there can be continued discussions and negotiations – it’s always open," Ochoa said. "A case can be negotiated all the way up to the first day of trial."