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Arson Suspected In Mount Hamilton Grass Fire

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(CBS graphic)

(CBS graphic)

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SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — Fire crews have controlled a grass fire on Mount Hamilton east of San Jose that was sparked by a suspected arson fire set inside one of two stolen cars found near Grant Ranch County Park, authorities said.

The vegetation fire was completely controlled by about 2 p.m. but crews from Cal Fire will stay behind for mop-up work through Wednesday morning, a Cal Fire dispatcher said.

The fire, reported at about 5:27 a.m. Tuesday, consumed heavy brush, grass and weeds off of Mount Hamilton Road but did not spread beyond the 40 acres it had burned as of 7:20 a.m., according to the dispatcher.

Crews from the San Jose Fire Department who also responded to the fire Tuesday morning were permitted to leave the scene, according to the dispatcher.

The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene at around 5:30 a.m. near mile marker 14 on Mount Hamilton Road, just east of the county park, spokesman Sgt. Kurtis Stenderup said.

Upon arrival, deputies found a car fully engulfed in flames and a second car about 100 yards away, Stenderup said.

Cal Fire determined that the car fire ignited grass in the area, sparking the larger fire.

Deputies later learned both cars had been stolen. They contacted the registered owners of the cars and neither knew at the time that their vehicles were missing, Stenderup said.

Authorities suspect that the fires in the cars were deliberately set and both Cal Fire and the sheriff’s office are investigating, according to Stenderup.

The sheriff’s office and the California Highway Patrol have taken reports of stolen cars that were abandoned in the same area off of the isolated, two-lane county road, Stenderup said.

Investigators are going to try to find out why the cars were driven there, Stenderup said.

The thieves may have gone out there on joy rides or with the intent to vandalize or strip the cars, he said.

Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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