Cal Fire Investigator Testifies Ember Sparked Cocos Blaze

Testimony comes in arson trial of Southern California teenager

A California state fire investigator testifying at the Cocos Fire arson trial on Wednesday explained why he had concluded that only an ember could have started the devastating blaze that swept across San Diego’s North County last year.

Capt. Christopher Palmer, a specialist with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said that there was no evidence that anyone had been in the canyon where the fire began, no footprints nor any other signs of human activity.

Palmer listed 11 ways the fire could have been sparked but eliminated all but the ember.

“It was the only ignition source in the area,” he said.

A now 14-year-old Southern California girl is charged with arson in connection with the fire, which destroyed 36 homes and caused more than $10 million in damage last May. Prosecutors say the ember came from one of two fires she set in her backyard the same week, a charge her defense disputes.

More than a dozen people were seen nearby, defense lawyers maintain.

On Monday, she was heard on an audio tape played in court telling investigators that she did not want to kill anyone when she set the first fire, only to see what would happen.

“What if it was me?” she asked the investigators repeatedly.

The girl, who is not being identified by NBC 7, faces four felony charges, including two counts of arson of an inhabited structure or property in which multiple structures were burned.

Her mother testified earlier that she did not believe her daughter could be to blame for the Cocos Fire. Her sister said that the girl laughed about the fires.

Defense lawyers argued earlier that an ember from the family’s backyard could not have traveled the distance that prosecutors allege.

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