Two Accused of Starting 1,900-Acre Colby Fire Found Guilty | NBC Southern California
California Wildfires

California Wildfires

Coverage of brush fires across the state

Two Accused of Starting 1,900-Acre Colby Fire Found Guilty

The fire burned above the San Gabriel Valley foothill communities of Glendora and Azusa



    A federal jury Friday returned guilty verdicts on all counts against two men for starting the 1,900-acre Colby Fire, which destroyed five homes and damaged 17 others.

    Clifford Henry Jr. and Steven Aguirre, who were both described as homeless,  were convicted of one felony and  three misdemeanor counts of lighting and failing to control an illegal campfire  that caused the Jan. 16 wildfire.

    A third defendant, Jonathan Jarrel, trial is set to start May 20.

    All three men were taken into custody Jan. 16 shortly after the fire started. During interviews with the Glendora Police Department and the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Arsons Investigations Unit, they admitted to starting a campfire that blew burning paper into brush.

    Aguirre and Henry were held in custody without bail. Jarrell was ordered a court-ordered psychological exam before his bail and detention could be discussed.

    A federal complaint alleged the men were camping, smoking pot and watching videos on a laptop when they lost control of their campfire.

    "It's really is important to drive home the fact that these sorts of actions, that not only the defendents described themselves as 'stupid,' but really put in harm's way so many individuals and are brought to bear in such a level of destruction,"Amanda Bettinelli said in January, assistant U.S. Attorney.

    The fire burned above the San Gabriel Valley foothill communities of Glendora and Azusa, 30 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

    Several neighborhoods, including 870 homes in Azusa, were placed under mandatory evacuations when the blaze took off, fueled by the Santa Ana winds.

    The fire raced downhill and into residential areas, sending embers into palm trees as spot fires popped up in the neighborhood. Smoke from the fire could be seen throughout Southern California. Air quality advisories -- indicating unhealthy air -- were issued.

    Road closures and evacuations were orderd from Yucca Ridge to Highway 39.

    Residents were able to return home as officials lifted evacuations on a day-by-day basis. The last of the evacuation orders were lifted Saturday, Jan. 18 in the Mountain Cove community of Azua when the blaze was nearly 80 percent contained.

    "It's exhilarating," said Azusa resident Alexandra Ramos at the time. "We're very appreciative to all the police and firefighters for saving our little community."

    Sentencing for the two men is set for Aug. 4.

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