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Third man convicted of sparking Colby fire near Glendora

WildfiresColby FireLand Resources
A third man is convicted of lighting an illegal campfire, setting off a destructive blaze near Glendora

A third man was convicted Thursday of sparking a wildfire that raged in the San Gabriel Mountains in January, charring nearly 2,000 acres of parched brush and destroying five homes.

Jonathan Jarrell, 24, was found guilty of a misdemeanor offense of illegally starting a fire, the U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles said.  

Jarrell and two others were charged with lighting an illegal campfire that started the destructive Colby fire on the morning of Jan. 16.

The blaze broke out on federal lands and was stoked by powerful winds as it raced into foothill areas of Glendora and Azusa, where residents fled flames that damaged 17 structures. 

On Friday, a federal jury found Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, guilty of one felony and three misdemeanor counts of lighting and failing to control an illegal campfire, prosecutors said.

The three men were detained by Glendora police officers as they fled the fire area. Jarrell faces up to five and a half years in federal prison when he is sentenced July 31. 

Henry and Aguirre are scheduled to be sentenced Aug. 4. and face up to six and a half years in prison, federal prosecutors said.

A federal affidavit detailed their arrests and subsequent interviews with investigators, during which they offered conflicting information about how the fire began but ultimately said it was a bad idea.

The men initially denied starting the fire, though Henry said it might have been sparked because of his "marijuana smoking," the affidavit said.

They later said they had hiked to the area the night of Jan. 15 and started a campfire, building a rock circle around it and later dousing it with dirt, the affidavit said. They said they woke up cold the next morning and began building another fire — even though the winds had picked up.

Jarrell threw a notebook into the fire as a gust of wind "came out of nowhere," carrying the burning paper into a bush, the affidavit said.

The men told investigators they tried to stamp out the flames but couldn't. They then ran down the hillside.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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