A fire that scorched a group of trees adjacent to an American Legion hall in Riverside was intentionally started by an itinerant who fled the location, authorities said Wednesday.

The non-injury blaze was reported about 8:30 p.m. Tuesday along Dexter Drive in Fairmount Park, within a few hundred feet of American Legion Post 79, according to the Riverside Fire Department.

Battalion Chief Craig Kodat said three engine crews and a truck company encountered “20 palm trees and the surrounding grass on fire.” The flames were moving in the direction of nearby homes, but crews quickly gained the upper hand, fully extinguishing the fire within 45 minutes, he said.

Roughly a half-acre was burned, but no structures were damaged, according to the battalion chief.

Kodat said witnesses reported that an apparent homeless man ignited the fire and then ran away. Police officers combed the park and surrounding neighborhoods but could not locate him.

No description was available.

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