Three men who were allegedly tossing papers into a campfire when winds sent embers into the brush north of Glendora, setting off the 1,900-acre Colby Fire, were due to make their initial federal court appearance today.
Clifford Eugene Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora; Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, a transient last known to live in Los Angeles; and Jonathan Carl Jarrell, 23, of Irwindale, were each charged Tuesday with one federal count of unlawfully setting a fire and face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The three men were taken into custody shortly after the fire broke out Thursday morning amid a red flag warning denoting an elevated risk of wildfires. They were transferred to federal custody Tuesday.
A federal affidavit filed in support of the charges indicates that all three men admitted their roles in the fire.
In an interview with members of the Los Angeles County sheriff's arson unit and Glendora Police Department, Henry allegedly stated that it could have been his marijuana smoking that started the fire, and explained that the fire was about six feet away from him when he woke up early Thursday morning, according to the affidavit.
Henry also allegedly admitted that he knew it was dangerous to have a fire in dry grass because he has been camping since he was a child, according to the document.
However, Aguirre allegedly said in an interview that the fire was not started by Henry's smoking, but, rather, when the wind blew a piece of burning paper from their campfire into a bush, according to the affidavit.
Glendora police Chief Tim Staab said last week a resident called police shortly after the fire began and reported seeing at least two people near what was believed to be the origin of the blaze.
"Reportedly, they were up, they had set a campfire," Staab said. "They were tossing papers into the campfire and a breeze -- reportedly -- a breeze had kicked up and set this fire."
Staab described one suspect as "apologetic," and said one of the men admitted to setting the fire.
Staab said the area where the men were found was not a camping area, but people are known to camp in the hills above Glendora.
"They told us they were camping out," he said. "There's no evidence to indicate they were living up there."
The Colby Fire was 98 percent contained this morning, with full containment expected by noon. The blaze has destroyed five homes, damaged 17 others and injured six people, including five firefighters and a civilian.
-- City News Service