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LEONA VALLEY : 2 Boys Admit Accidentally Starting Fire, Probers Say

Two boys admitted that by playing with a cigarette lighter they accidentally touched off a Leona Valley brush fire that charred about 500 acres and caused an estimated $1 million damage, investigators said Tuesday.

The fire destroyed part of one house, 10 smaller buildings, 15 vehicles and killed an ostrich in this close-knit West Antelope Valley community, known for its horse ranches and cherry orchards.

The boys, ages 9 and 10, were released to their parents after telling sheriff’s investigators they had set the fire, which started near Leona Avenue and 107th Street West, said Deputy George Ducoulombier. The boys, whose names were withheld because of their age, will probably not face prosecution but will be referred for counseling, authorities said.

The brush fire, which ignited Monday afternoon, was still burning in an uninhabited hilly area on Tuesday, but firefighters expected to have it fully contained by today.

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One person was reported injured. Bryce Worthington suffered minor burns to his eyes, throat and lungs while using a garden hose to fend off the flames that were eating away at his six-bedroom house.

On Tuesday, Worthington, a 56-year-old general contractor, said he was grateful that his wife and 11 children escaped injury and that generous neighbors had helped save many of the family’s valuables.

The fire gutted five bedrooms and a glass-enclosed sun porch. Worthington estimated that damage to the structure and the furnishings would exceed $200,000.


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