Man accused of arson in Camp Pendleton fire

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CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. -- A parolee was arrested on suspicion of arson Tuesday after a wildfire blackened 85 open acres in the southern reaches of Camp Pendleton, according to Oceanside Fire Department.

The blaze near Marine Memorial Golf Course was reported about 1:15 p.m., according to a dispatcher with North County Dispatch. Firefighters with Cal Fire and other area agencies aided military crews in battling the flames by ground and air.

Authorities closed Douglas Drive between North River Road and Vandegrift Boulevard in northern Oceanside as a precaution while firefighters worked to corral the blaze.

Jose Antonio Torres Jr., 35, was arrested on the U.S. Marine Corps base shortly after the blaze began. He was booked into the county jail in Vista early Wednesday morning on suspicion of violating the terms of his conditional release from prison.

It was not immediately clear if investigators suspect him of doing so intentionally or accidentally.

"The investigation into the fire cause will continue while he is in custody," said Pete Lawrence, a battalion chief with the Oceanside Fire Department.

After the suspect said he had set booby traps, crews were forced to stop fighting the flames for a while until they found out that was false.

"We heard crackling. It intensified pretty quickly," said Ed Well, who was golfing at the course.

"It started small and then all of a sudden it sounded like a huge popcorn machine," said Jay Miller, another golfer.

"We see a guy, we didn't think anything about it, cut across the golf course. And then all of a sudden, we saw a little fire start and it got big really fast because the wind was blowing. And then we saw the same guy running up the hill trying to get away from the fire."

By early evening, firefighters had halted the spread of the blaze at roughly 50 acres, according to Camp Pendleton officials.

No structural damage was reported.

One firefighter was treated for a minor injury.

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