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Wed, Oct. 16

Juvenile found guilty of starting wildfires; fined $75,000

A 16-year-old male from Glendale has pleaded guilty to starting three fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache  —  Sitgreaves National Forest outside of Forest Lakes. (USFS/photo)

A 16-year-old male from Glendale has pleaded guilty to starting three fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache — Sitgreaves National Forest outside of Forest Lakes. (USFS/photo)

FOREST LAKES, Ariz. — A 16-year-old male from Glendale has pleaded guilty to starting three fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache — Sitgreaves National Forest outside of Forest Lakes.

The fires were started May 27 and 28, 2018 in the area of Forest Road 178. The first fire was reported around 7:30 a.m. May 27 and burned about 11 acres before fire crews could contain and control the fire.

The second fire was reported aroound 2 p.m. May 28 and burned a quarter of an acre before fire crews could contain and control the fire. The third fire was reported while fire crews were fighting the second fire. That fire was contained and controlled at a quarter of an acre.

United States Forest Service fire crews and Forest Lakes Fire Department responded to the fires and conducted containment and suppression operations.

The resident USDA Forest Service law enforcement officer in Forest Lakes conducted the investigation and found evidence that all three fires were human caused. Investigators identified the suspect as the 16-year-old male. The juvenile had been with several family members camping in the area. He made statements that he had piled sticks or branches and lit them on fire for his cousins. He said he was fascinated with fire and enjoyed watching the colors, but also acknowledged he knew the destructive potential of fire.

The juvenile was initially detained, arrested and later released to his parents on three federal counts of causing timber, trees and grass to burn.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office later referred the case to the Coconino County Attorney’s Office because of the age of the suspect. The juvenile was ultimately charged with three counts of reckless burning under Arizona State Law.

The suspect plead guilty to one count of reckless burning with two counts being dismissed. He was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution for the cost of fire suppression.

The agencies said the successful investigation and case prosecution by the Forest Service and Coconino County is a testament to the collaborative relationship when federal and local agencies work together. The Coconino County Sheriff’s Office supports the Forest Service in the protection of our natural resources through this partnership by patrolling forested areas, camp grounds, fire detection and suppression activities.

Information provided by Coconino County

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