LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Three men accused of starting the 1,900-acre Colby Fire pleaded not guilty Tuesday to federal charges of illegally setting and failing to control an unauthorized campfire.
Clifford Henry Jr., Steven Aguirre and Jonathan Jarrell each face two felony and four misdemeanor counts of unlawfully causing and failing to control an illegal campfire on federal land. If convicted as charged, they could face up to 12 years in federal prison, plus fines, restitution and federal probation.
The defendants were ordered to appear for trial before U.S. District Judge George H. Wu on March 11, but that trial date is expected to be postponed.
The three men were arrested shortly after the fire erupted on Jan. 16 amid a red flag warning due to strong winds, high temperatures and bone-dry conditions.
A federal affidavit suggests all three men admitted roles in the fire.
Aguirre, 21, said the fire started when the wind blew a piece of burning paper from the men’s campfire into a bush, according to the affidavit.
The three men were not in a camping area, though people are known to camp unpermitted in the foothills, Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said. There was no evidence to indicate the three men were living in the hills.
Officials said Henry Jr., 22, is a Glendora resident, while Aguirre and 23-year-old Jarrell are transients.
Henry Jr. and Aguirre are in federal custody pending trial. Jarrell was ordered into residential drug treatment earlier.
The blaze in the Angeles National Forest consumed 1,952 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged 17 others while injuring six people, including five firefighters, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It also destroyed 10 outbuildings and damaged another.
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