3 Suspects in Southern Calif. Wildfire Smoked Pot as Blaze Flared: Prosecutors

Three men are accused of starting an illegal campfire amid the dry brush of Angeles National Forest

By Jason Kandel and Kim Baldonado
|  Wednesday, Jan 22, 2014  |  Updated 8:27 AM PDT
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The U.S. Attorney's Office filed charges against the three men accused of starting the Colby Fire, which burned more than 1,900 acres and destroyed five homes in the San Gabriel Mountains. Kim Baldonado reports from downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

Kim Baldonado

The U.S. Attorney's Office filed charges against the three men accused of starting the Colby Fire, which burned more than 1,900 acres and destroyed five homes in the San Gabriel Mountains. Kim Baldonado reports from downtown Los Angeles for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 21, 2014.

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Three Southern California men accused of starting the 1,952-acre Colby Fire allegedly smoked marijuana as the brush fire flared, according to a federal complaint filed on Tuesday.

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 charged with one federal count each of unlawfully setting a fire.

The men allegedly tossed papers into a campfire when winds sent embers into the brush above Glendora, setting off the Colby Fire.

A federal complaint alleges they were camping, smoking pot and watching videos on a laptop when their campfire got out of control. 

The suspects are expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday.

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They 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 early Thursday morning amid a red flag warning denoting an elevated risk of wildfires.

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Glendora police Chief Tim Staab 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.

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Staab described one of the suspects as "apologetic," and said one of the men admitted to setting the fire.

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The Colby Fire was 95 percent contained as of Tuesday.

It destroyed five homes, damaged 17 others and injured six people, including five firefighters and a civilian. It also prompted evacuations of several neighborhoods.

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