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(Corrects day of standoff in sixth paragraph)
By Dana Feldman
SAN BERNARDINO, Calif., Feb 13 (Reuters) - A cabin in the mountains above Los Angeles where fugitive and former cop Christopher Dorner is believed to have died following a gunfight with police was not purposely set on fire by law enforcement, the San Bernardino County sheriff said on Wednesday.
"It was not done on purpose. We did not intentionally burn down that cabin to get Mr. Dorner out," Sheriff John McMahon said at an afternoon press conference.
Investigators had not yet formally identified charred remains found in the burned-out structure, although they are believed to be those of 33-year-old Dorner.
"I cannot absolutely, positively confirm it's him," McMahon said. "The suspect that we were following ... matched his description. His behavior based on our deputies' interaction with him inside the vacant cabin was consistent with Mr. Dorner's activity prior to and we are not currently involved in a manhunt any longer."
"Our coroner's division is working on trying to confirm the identity through forensics and we should know that at some point here soon," he said.
Dorner was wanted in a killing spree targeting police officers when a man matching his description was cornered in the cabin in the San Bernardino National Forest on Tuesday.
He had been on the run since last Wednesday, when he was named as the prime suspect in the slaying of a couple in Irvine, south of Los Angeles.
The search intensified last Thursday after he was accused of killing of a Riverside policeman and wounding another officer in an ambush about 60 miles (100 km) east of Los Angeles.
Law enforcement converged later that day in the San Bernardino Mountains after a pickup truck identified as Dorner's was found abandoned and burning in the snow near the ski resort community of Big Bear Lake northeast of Los Angeles.
The ensuing manhunt, stretching from the desert north of the mountains to the Mexican border, was described by Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck as the region's most extensive ever.
An angry manifesto posted last week on Dorner's Facebook page claimed that he had been wrongly dismissed from the Los Angeles Police Department in 2008. He vowed to seek revenge by unleashing "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" on officers and their families.
The cabin where Dorner is believed to have hidden before making his last stand was a short distance from a police command post, in an area where authorities had said they were conducting door-to-door searches of residences.
Tuesday's climax to the manhunt began when two housekeepers encountered a man believed to have been Dorner inside a vacant cabin in the Big Bear area. The man tied them up and then took off in a purple Nissan parked near the cabin, authorities said.
State game wardens spotted the stolen vehicle and gave chase. The suspect crashed that car, then commandeered a pickup truck at gunpoint from another motorist and traded gunfire with the game wardens as he sped away, authorities said.
The suspect ultimately abandoned the truck and fled into the woods to the cabin, from where he exchanged gunfire with deputies.
During a lull in the shooting, the cabin caught fire and was quickly engulfed in flames. It remained unclear on Wednesday how the blaze began.
Los Angeles-based CBS television affiliate, KCAL, and CNN, have broadcast an audio recording of what sounds like police radio chatter during the confrontation, in which voices purported to be officers shout, "Burn it down."
During his press conference on Wednesday, McMahon said that the term "burners" was used by law enforcement to refer to tear gas canisters, which were fired into the cabin near the end of the standoff.
The Los Angeles Times reported that authorities had pumped tear gas into the cabin through smashed windows and called for the suspect to surrender but received no response. As police used a demolition vehicle to tear down the walls, they heard a gunshot from inside before the cabin burst into flames, according to the Times report. (Reporting by Brandon Lowrey, Dana Feldman, Steve Gorman, Alex Dobuzinskis and Dan Whitcomb; Writing by Dan Whitcomb; Editing by Tom Brown, Toni Reinhold, Steve Orlofsky and Lisa Shumaker)