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Juvenile Charged in 2018 Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest fires

Sedona AZ – A 16 year old male from Glendale, Arizona, pled guilty to starting three fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest outside of Forest Lakes, AZ.

The 2018 fires were started on May 27 and 28, in the area of Forest Road 178: The first fire (May 27) was reported at approximately 7:30 in the morning and burned about eleven acres before fire crews could contain and control it. The second fire (May 28) was reported at 1:57 in the afternoon and burned a quarter of an acre before fire crews could contain and control the fire. The third fire (May 28) was reported while fire crews were fighting the second fire. The third fire was contained and controlled at a quarter of an acre also.

The 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, and identified the arson suspect as a 16 year old male camping in the area with several family members.

The sixteen year old stated he piled sticks and branches before lighting the wood pile on fire for his cousins. He claimed to be fascinated with fire and enjoyed watching the colors, but also acknowledged that he knew the destructive potential of fire.

The suspect was initially detained, arrested and later released to his parents on three federal counts of Causing Timber, Trees and Grass to Burn.

The United States Attorney’s later referred the case to the Coconino County Attorney’s Office due to the age of the juvenile suspect. The Juvenile was ultimately charged with three counts of Reckless Burning under Arizona State Law.

The suspect entered a plea of 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 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, campgrounds, and assisting with fire detection and suppression activities.

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