-Photos by Terry Miller
Two men involved in setting an illegal campfire above Glendora that erupted out of control to become the destructive Colby Fire were sentenced last week to federal prison.
At today’s hearing, Clifford Eugene Henry Jr, 22, of Glendora, received a prison term of 6 months, plus a three-year term of supervised release, and Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, of Baldwin Park, received a prison term of 5 months, plus a three-year term of supervised release, from United States District Judge George H. Wu.
Clifford Henry and Steven Aguirre were tried together in May and each was found guilty of four charges (one felony and three misdemeanors) related to the fire. At today’s hearing, the government agreed to dismiss one of the misdemeanor charges.
One other defendant in the case, Jonathan Carl Jarrell, was also found guilty of a felony offense of unlawfully setting timber afire and a misdemeanor offense of illegally starting a fire. Jarrell is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge Wu later this month.
The Colby Fire started on the morning of January 16. By that evening, the fire had consumed more than 1,700 acres of federal, state, local and private lands. The fire destroyed six residences, damaged eight other residences and 17 additional structures, and resulted in injuries to one civilian and two firefighters. Prosecutors argued that the damages and costs associated with fire-fighting efforts were in excess of $6,000,000.
Henry and Aguirre were detained by Glendora Police Officers after they were seen fleeing from area of the fire in a flood control channel. During interviews with Glendora Police and personnel with the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson Investigations Unit – interviews that the jury heard during the trial – both defendants admitted playing a role in the starting the illegal campfire that led to the Colby Fire after wind blew burning paper into the brush in the hills above Glendora. Strong Santa Ana winds drove the fire into the residential communities below the hills.
A United States Forest Service fire investigator determined that the origin of the Colby Fire was at a point near a fire ring built by the three men at a location on federal lands within the Angeles National Forest.
“The devastation directly caused by defendants conduct points to the incredible seriousness of their offense,” prosecutors wrote in a brief filed in relation to the sentencing. “But the fact that it could have been worse underscores that degree of seriousness. But for the quick thinking and courageous reactions of the Glendora and Azusa Police Departments to evacuate the residents in harm’s way; but for the heroic actions of individual fire fighters, helicopter pilots and aircraft tanker pilots in battling the blaze; but for the winds dying down and the humidity increasing…this could have been so much worse.”
The investigation in this case was conducted by the United States Forest Service, the Glendora Police Department, the Azusa Police Department, the Los Angeles County Fire Department’s Arson/Fire Investigation Unit, and CAL FIRE.