One of three men convicted of starting an illegal campfire that spread into the destructive Colby Fire in the hills above a San Gabriel Valley community was sentenced Monday to probation and ordered to pay part of $9.1 million in restitution.
Jonathan Jarrell, 24, was convicted of starting an illegal campfire in January 2014 on federal land and a related misdemeanor count of burning timber, trees, brush and grass in the forest without a permit in Angeles National Forest. The campfire grew to the 1,900-acre Colby Fire, which destroyed six residences, in the hills above Glendora after the men used paper to fuel the flames, investigators said.
A federal complaint alleged the men were camping, smoking pot and watching videos on their laptop when they lost control of the Jan. 16 campfire about 30 miles northeast of downtown Los Angeles.
Sentencing for Jarrell was delayed due to drug and mental health treatment for the defendant. He was sentenced to three years probation with 30 hours of community service per month.
Clifford Henry, 22, and Steven Aguirre, 21, were sentenced last year to six months and five months, respectively, in federal prison. They also must serve three-year federal probation terms.
U.S. District Judge George Wu said Jarrell was the least culpable of the three men. The first fire set Jan. 15 -- which was not among the charged offenses -- went out before midnight, but around 4 a.m. the next day, the cold weather awakened the men. They built a second fire to keep warm, adding notebook paper to the fire ring before wind gusts send embers into surrounding brush.
The men were ordered to pay shares of $9.1 million in restitution to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, California FAIR Plan Association, Glendora and Azusa police departments, Los Angeles County Department of Public Works, and other government entities and private citizens.
Wu described the case as "difficult" since there was no intended malice and the wildfire was "unintentional." Federal prosecutors said in sentencing papers that Jarrell is "not an arsonist," but his "reckless conduct" led to the devastating fire.
Defense attorney John Hanusz said that his client had done "really well" in treatment and was enrolled to begin studying psychology at a community college this fall. In a short statement to the court, Jarrell said he had "come a long way" in the past 18 months.
"I've decided what I want to do with my life," he said.