About a dozen small grass fires have been reported along Black Rascal Creek within the past month, but no suspects have been arrested.
Police officers and fire personnel responded to another small fire Thursday afternoon along the creek near R Street. Three suspects matching a witness description were stopped and searched by police, but were later released because of a lack of evidence.
Battalion Chief Shawn Henry of the Merced Fire Department said there was another similar fire the night before in the area.
There have been eight fires in the past 10 days, Henry said.
With businesses and residences nearby, the fires could pose a problem as the weather warms up and vegetation dries out, he noted.
"That's why we're aggressive with our weed abatement program with the city," Henry said, adding that the program starts next month.
Similar incidents have happened before in the same area, he said. The Fire Department is working closely with police to try to identify a trend so it can stop those responsible.
Anyone with information about the fires is encouraged to call either the Merced Fire Department's arson tipline at (209) 388-8822 or the Merced Police Department's automated tipline at (209) 385-4725.
-- Mike North