A firefighter has been charged with setting one of nearly 40 suspected arson fires that have charred 6,500 acres since May 1, including tracts of valuable timberland within the Los Padres National Forest. Patrick M. Cooney, 23, of San Luis Obispo was booked on suspicion of felony arson late Thursday, said Earl Clayton, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

Cooney, released on $5,000 bail, is accused of setting a fire Tuesday near Pozo Summit in the Los Padres forest that blackened 100 acres before being brought under control the next day, Clayton said. Cooney has denied setting the fire.