Injured man starts border fire to signal for help

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SAN DIEGO -- A small fire on Otay Mountain Saturday morning was started as a smoke signal by a man who got injured crossing the border, officials confirmed.

Crews got a call around 11 a.m. from someone who spotted smoke on Otay Mountain from nearby Otay Lakes Road, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Preston Fouts confirmed. Cal Fire sent engines, air tankers and helicopters to douse flames on the hillside. All told, the fire only burned about one third of an acre.

Fouts told FOX 5 that crews found an injured man who had started the blaze as a "signal fire."

The man could be seen in handcuffs while paramedics treated his injuries and both Border Patrol and Cal Fire police officers were seen searching his belongings. Border Patrol told FOX 5 the man had recently entered the country illegally with a group of three other people. He was in the custody of Cal Fire as of Saturday afternoon, though it wasn't immediately clear if he would be charged with arson in the US.

Fouts said air support and the fire's location near access roads helped keep the blaze under control. Ground crews were mopping up the scene by afternoon. One firefighter suffered a rolled ankle and no buildings were damaged, Fouts said.

The man was seen in handcuffs while receiving care from paramedics, but Border Patrol and sheriff's officials haven't confirmed whether he is suspected of entering the country illegally or will be charged with arson.

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