Men accused of sparking Colby fire ordered to remain in custody


Three men charged with sparking the Colby fire that scorched nearly 2,000 acres near Glendora made their first appearance in federal court Wednesday.

Two of the defendants — Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, described as a transient, and Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora — were ordered to remain in custody without bail. The third, Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 24, also described as a transient, was scheduled to appear in court Friday morning for his detention hearing.

All three men are scheduled to be arraigned Feb. 11.

PHOTOS: The Colby fire

They were each charged Tuesday with unlawfully setting timber afire, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. If convicted, the men face up to five years in federal prison.


But Asst. U.S. Atty. Amanda Bettinelli, who is handling the case, said Wednesday that additional charges are being considered.

The men were arrested as they ran away from the fire as it spread in the hills near Glendora. A federal affidavit released Tuesday details 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 sparked because of his “marijuana smoking,” the affidavit said.

The suspects 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.

The men admitted the area was dry, and said they took care to ensure the first fire didn’t escape its rock circle, the affidavit said. They said they knew they were in an area off-limits to both camping and campfires and hiked to a spot high enough on the hillside where they thought their fire wouldn’t be spotted.


Henry told investigators it was “not a good idea” to put paper in the fire, and that it was “crazy” to start a campfire in an area so dry. Starting the fire was “dumb,” he later said.

Investigators determined the blaze started on federal land not far from the fire ring the men built, the affidavit said.

At last count, the Colby fire burned nearly 2,000 acres and was 98% contained. At least five homes were destroyed and 17 other structures damaged, officials said. Three people, including two firefighters, were injured.

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