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Forest Lakes, AZ – A 16 year old male from Glendale, AZ has plead guilty to starting 3 fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache- Sitgreaves Nation Forest outside of Forest Lakes, AZ.
The fires were started on May 27 and 28, 2018 in the area of Forest Road 178. The first fire was started on May 27th and reported around 7:30 AM. The fire burned to about 11 acres before fire crews could contain and control the fire.
The second fire was started on May 28th and was reported around 1:57 PM and burned ¼ acre before fire crews could contain and control the fire. The third fire was reported while fire crews were fighting the second fire. This fire was contained and controlled at ¼ 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 all three fires were human caused. Investigators identified the suspect as a 16 year old male. The suspect had been with several family members camping in the area. The suspect made statements that he had piled sticks or branches and lit them on fire for his cousins. The suspect said he was fascinated with fire and enjoyed watching the colors, but also acknowledged 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 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 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.