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Man Convicted of Causing Colby Fire

Jonathan Jarrell, who had moved to the Los Angeles area not long before the January wildfire, faces up to 5 1/2 years in federal prison at sentencing on July 31.

Patch file photo.
Patch file photo.

A third man was convicted Thursday of lighting an illegal campfire in the Glendora hills, causing what became the 1,900-acre Colby Fire.

The jury deliberated for about half a day before convicting 24-year-old Jonathan Jarrell of two of four charges -- a felony count of building an illegal campfire on federal land and a misdemeanor count of causing timber, trees, brush and grass to burn in the forest without a permit.

The jury deadlocked on the remaining misdemeanors, and U.S. District Judge George H. Wu declared a mistrial on those counts.

Jarrell, who had moved to the Los Angeles area not long before the January wildfire, faces up to 5 1/2 years in federal prison at sentencing on July 31.

Last week, his co-defendants, Clifford Henry Jr., 22, and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, were each found guilty of all counts. They face up to 6 1/2 years each when sentenced Aug. 4.

Jarrell's case was separated based on statements he made to investigators that implicated his co-defendants.

Both juries heard evidence that the three men hiked up the Colby Trail high above Glendora the night of Jan. 15, built a fire ring out of rocks, and lit two illegal campfires.

The first fire -- which was not among the charged offenses -- went out before midnight, but around 4 a.m. on Jan. 16, the cold weather awakened the men.

Henry Jr. and Aguirre built another campfire to keep warm and Jarrell added notebook paper to the blaze. Shortly afterward, a gust of wind blew embers into the surrounding brush.

"He intentionally took paper and lit it on fire," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph O. Johns told the jury in his closing argument on Wednesday. "And not a shred of evidence disputes that."

When the embers started blowing, the men managed to stomp out one fiery patch, but another ignited.

At that point, Jarrell, Aguirre and Henry Jr. "panicked and fled," leaving the wildfire "to the untender mercies of the Santa Ana winds," Johns said during the first trial.

The blaze in the Angeles National Forest consumed 1,952 acres, destroyed five homes and damaged 17 others while injuring six people, including five firefighters, according to the U.S. Forest Service. It also destroyed 10 outbuildings and damaged another.

—City New Service



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