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Man Convicted of Starting 6 Fires

<i> From Associated Press</i>

A jury has decided that Steven Santos Robles Jr. started six fires last summer in northern San Diego County. But it couldn’t agree that the former firefighter intended to level seven homes in a blaze he admitted setting one hot day last August.

The difference, officials said, is that Robles could spend about two decades in state prison rather than the rest of his life.

Robles, 22, was found guilty Thursday on six counts of arson, but the jury deadlocked on the most serious charge, aggravated arson, stemming from an August 1997 Lake Wohlford blaze that destroyed nearly 500 acres of brush and burned seven homes. The lake is northeast of Escondido.

When he was arrested last fall, Robles confessed to starting the Wohlford fire as well as the six others.

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He showed two investigators on a map where he set the fires and demonstrated how he made a time-delay device to start each of them--a lighted cigarette tucked into a book of matches.

Included in those fires was the Sept. 19 Del Dios fire, which burned 1,200 acres and destroyed two houses. At least five dwellings must be destroyed in order for the charge of aggravated arson to be filed.

Robles is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 9.


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