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Fire at Andy Lopez memorial site ruled accident

  • The Andy Lopez memorial site was badly damaged by fire Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014. (Connor Jay / The Press Democrat)

Stunned supporters of Andy Lopez gathered Thursday to resurrect a memorial to the 13-year-old Santa Rosa boy following an early morning fire at the makeshift structure that officials said was started accidentally by a burning candle.

Speculation that someone intentionally started the blaze around midnight Thursday had emotions on edge all day as investigators from four agencies pored over the Moorland Avenue site for clues to how the fire began.

The memorial, set near where Lopez fell after the boy was shot and killed by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who reportedly mistook the teen's BB gun for a real assault rifle, is considered sacred ground, drawing visitors daily.

Andy Lopez Memorial Site

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“I really pray it was just an accident, because anybody that would do that is heartless,” said Katrina Lujan of Roseland, who brought her two children to the memorial Thursday after she read about the fire on a Facebook page dedicated to Lopez.

As darkness fell, photos of Lopez and other mementos began reappearing on a table that replaced a wooden altar damaged in the blaze. A wooden cross standing about 6 feet high was repainted white and staked into the ground behind the table.

“We want it to be here forever so that people will remember him,” said Lisbet Mendoza, 15.

Mendoza was among those who suspected someone deliberately set the blaze. “It's basically like burning him,” she said.

Rincon Valley firefighters quickly doused the flames after responding to the blaze at 12:08 a.m. Thursday.

Fire officials determined after their daylong investigation that the blaze was started accidentally by a burning candle at the center of the memorial structure.

Central Fire Authority Fire Chief Doug Williams, who oversaw the investigation, said no evidence of accelerants, such as gasoline, was found at the site.

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