Teen Girl to Face Charges in Cocos Fire

The Cocos Fire in San Marcos was one of nine fires that burned 9,000 acres in San Diego County on the same day

A teenage girl accused of starting the devastating Cocos Fire faces multiple charges including four felonies and will undergo a mental evaluation.

The juvenile faces four felony charges and one misdemeanor in connection with the wildfire that destroyed close to 40 homes in San Marcos on May 14.

The charges include two counts of arson of an inhabited structure or property in which multiple structures were burned and two counts of arson of a structure or forest land in a reckless manner.

She also faces a misdemeanor of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape from one’s control.

Superior Court Judge Aaron Katz delayed her arraignment until the minor undergoes an exam for mental competency at the request of her attorney.

The teenager wore her long, blonde hair down when she appeared Wednesday in San Diego County Juvenile Court.

She said only "Good morning" and looked at Judge Katz almost the entire time, according to pool reporters in the hearing.

At one point, she looked back at her parents with what was described as a blank stare.

“The charges are very serious charges,” said Deputy District Attorney Shawnalyse Ochoa. “The minor is currently at home with her parents.”

Judge Katz ruled the juvenile could be identified by first name only. He also ruled that the teen could not leave her home without her parents and must adhere to a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew.

The fire that sparked near Village Drive and Twin Oaks Road forced the evacuation of Cal State San Marcos and hundreds of other homes.

More than 2,000 acres were burned costing the City of San Marcos approximately $10.4 million in damage and firefighting costs.

The next hearing in Juvenile Court is scheduled for August 20.

NBC 7 is not showing images of the juvenile outside Wednesday's court hearing because it is our policy not to identify minors involved in a crime.

[G] Photos of Firestorm 2014

San Marcos resident Loretta Wasson has known the family involved for as long as she’s lived in the community – 17 years.

“To actually say she did it on purpose… it just doesn’t seem possible,” Wasson said.

She recalled the day that she first saw smoke near her home, in an area she described as a gully between homes.

“All I saw was smoke,” she said.

“That’s when I saw the firefighters. One of the neighbors was out there with water trying to put it out.”

Louie Ramirez recalls how he first spotted the smoke near his home while he was putting away dishes in his kitchen.

“I saw that tall pine in between those two yards on fire,” he said describing how he went outside his home, using a cane, to alert his neighbors.

“And then somehow it jumped way up the hill,” he said. “And there it went.”

Ramirez said he remembers seeing young girls in the area when the fire first started, a fact that he told firefighters that day.

“I saw them running around like their tails were cut off,” he said of the girls.

However, he was surprised to learn a teenage girl may soon be charged with arson in connection with the devastating San Marcos Fire.

On NBC 7's Facebook page, many are having a heated debate on whether the teenager should be tried in Juvenile Court or be tried as an adult.

Christyne Allyce Wallis of Oceanside posted, "She destroyed property, cancelled school, graduation and caused businesses to miss out on thousands of dollars in revenue. Not to mention to actual cost of putting the fires out. She deserves to be tried as an adult and her parents need to be held somewhat responsible."

However, there were other followers who said the teenager belongs in Juvenile Court.

"No child should be tried as an adult. Children are children and how do u decided who was adult enough to make a stupid decision," Ginger Bryce posted.

Get involved in the discussion on NBC 7's Facebook page.

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