Investigators question kids seen near North County brush fire

OCEANSIDE, Calif. — An investigation was underway Wednesday after police and sheriff’s deputies questioned two juveniles in connection with a small brush fire that broke out near the border of Oceanside and Vista.

Several 911 callers reported the flames and smoke around 3:10 p.m. Tuesday near Melrose Drive and Oceanside Boulevard, just west of the Vista Sports Park, Oceanside Fire Department Battalion Chief Pete Lawrence said. When fire crews arrived, they found the flames moving uphill to the east toward several homes on Sports Park Way.

Firefighters had difficulty reaching the blaze, but once they drew close enough they were able to stop the burn at less than seven acres, Lawrence said. It took the firefighters about 45 minutes to knock down the flames and another hour of mop-up to ensure no hot spots were left.

Investigators from both the Vista and Oceanside fire departments were dispatched to determine the cause of the blaze, Lawrence said. Several witnesses told investigators they’d seen two juveniles in the area when the flames broke out.

“Two juveniles were located in the immediate area and detained by officers from the Oceanside Police Department and sheriff’s department (deputies),” Lawrence said. “After interviewing the juveniles, they were released to the custody of their parents.”

Officials did not say whether the juveniles were suspected of starting the fire. The investigation was continuing Wednesday.

The blaze occurred on a day when temperatures were above average for January, and Lawrence said fuel conditions remain dry despite the recent rain.

“People need to continue to exercise caution out in the wildland areas,” the battalion chief said. “It will take several more inches of rain before the fuel is moist enough to keep fires from starting and spreading.”