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Drifter Faces Felony Charge in Giant Fire

Associated Press

A transient suspected of accidentally igniting the blaze that destroyed more than 100 homes has been formally charged with a felony count that could lead to four years in prison.

Gary Wayne Parris, 39, was brought into a Nevada County courtroom in handcuffs on Thursday for arraignment on a charge of reckless burning. He also is charged with public drunkenness.

He at first was charged with a misdemeanor count, but the charge was upgraded because of evidence of “willful and wanton” disregard of the fire danger, according to Dist. Atty. John Darlington.

The California Department of Forestry encouraged the district attorney to file the more serious charges to get Parris off the street for his own safety and so he can qualify for psychological help, said Chief Ranger Robert Paulus.

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The fire destroyed 102 homes and 57 outbuildings, according to CDF spokeswoman Karen Terrill. The economic toll has risen beyond $15 million, including $11 million in property damage and $4.2 million in suppression costs.


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