Reward offered after 2 elementary school fires

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SAN DIEGO — Arson investigators Thursday sought public help to solve a pair of fires last month at two Carmel Valley elementary schools less than a mile apart.

The first blaze, which started around 9:50 p.m. on Aug. 9, targeted a storage container on the campus of Ocean Air Elementary School at 11444 Canter Heights Drive, said Sgt. Rick Pechin of the San Diego Police Department’s Metro Arson Strike Team.

“The storage container was positioned next to the exterior wall of one of the classrooms,” Pechin said. “As the fire increased in size and intensity, it traveled from the storage container into the wall of a classroom and caused an estimated $25,000 in damage.”

Investigators believe that fire was connected to another blaze four days later because of the close proximity of the schools and the similarities in the incidents, Pechin said.

The second fire began about 10:20 p.m. on Aug. 13 and targeted a storage container at Sage Canyon Elementary School, 5290 Harvest Run Drive, Pechin said. That storage unit was also next to an exterior wall, and the blaze prompted fire sprinklers to activate, which helped suppress the flames before fire crews arrived.

A witness walking his dog reported seeing three people running toward a dark sedan and speeding away southbound on Harvest Run Drive.

San Diego County Crime Stoppers is offering up to a $1,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. Investigators asked anyone with information about the fires to call the Metro Arson Strike Team at 619-236- 6815 or Crime Stoppers at 888-580-8477. Tipsters may remain anonymous.