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Girl, accused of starting wildfire

A judge on Wednesday ruled that a 13-year-old girl is competent to stand trial on allegations that she deliberately started a wildfire that destroyed three dozen homes north of San Diego in May.

The judge made the ruling in a brief hearing in juvenile court, where the girl pleaded not guilty to three felony counts of arson and one misdemeanour count of unlawfully allowing a fire to escape from one's control.

A judge had ordered last month that the girl from San Marcos be psychologically evaluated to determine if she is fit to stand trial.

The girl's attorney, Ryan McGlinn, told Superior Court Judge Rod Shelton that a doctor had evaluated the child and recommended she be found competent, and Shelton agreed, according to U-T San Diego.

Prosecutors allege the girl intentionally started the Cocos Fire, the most destructive of nearly a dozen wildfires that ripped through Southern California in May, which destroyed 36 homes and one business.

Prosecutors also told the girl's parents at the hearing that they may be responsible for restitution costs. While the district attorney's office didn't mention a dollar amount, the U-T reports that official estimates have put the cost of fighting the fire and lost property at $12 million.

The court has allowed that the girl's first name be published, but The Associated Press generally does not identify juvenile suspects.

She was told on Wednesday that she could remain in the care of her parents and subject to a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew and was ordered to return to court Sept. 16.

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Information from: U-T San Diego, http://www.utsandiego.com

The Canadian Press

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