JULIAN – Two Julian teenagers, accused of starting the 850-acre Angel fire that destroyed one house and a large part of an Episcopal church retreat, will appear in court later this month for a preliminary hearing on felony charges of recklessly starting a fire.
If convicted, Francisco Javier Abarca, 19, and Mario J.W. DeLuca, 18, both of Julian, could also be held liable for the $3 million cost of fighting the September fire, officials say.
The blaze, caused by an illegal campfire, forced the evacuation of hundreds in the mountain town on Sept. 15. Seventeen buildings were destroyed at Camp Stevens, which was purchased in 1952 jointly by the Episcopal Dioceses of Los Angeles and San Diego.
Abarca and DeLuca are charged with a form of arson that does not require prosecutors to prove they intended to burn forest or buildings. If convicted, the teens face a maximum of three years in prison.
The arrests of Abarca and DeLuca in January were not publicized by authorities.
It appears to be under control now, but for a while there was concern for some 2,000 year old cypress trees being threatened by a fire in the Patagonia region of Argentina, according to Reuters.
BUENOS AIRES, Feb 28 (Reuters) – Firefighters battled forest fires in Argentina’s Patagonia region on Thursday, but thousand-year-old trees in a national park were not threatened by the flames, a provincial official said.
The fire, which government officials blamed on arsonists, started in the Alerces National Park, raising fears about damage to the park’s famous Patagonian cypress trees. The trees can live for 2,000 years or more, making some of them among the oldest living things on Earth.
“The national park is totally under control. There’s no fire and the firefighters are doing the ground maintenance work to make sure it doesn’t catch fire again,” provincial government spokesman Daniel Taito said by telephone.
However, he said the flames had ravaged some 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) of mostly native woodland beyond the borders of the national park, which lies in the Andean region of Chubut province near the Chilean border.
Local officials ordered the few residents of the sparsely populated area to evacuate their homes.
Environment Secretary Romina Picolotti, who visited the scene, said action was being taken “to find the culprits of this arson.”
Three firefighters were injured in a vehicle accident in Texas, according to an AP story.
ROBERT LEE, Texas — Firefighters across West and Central Texas continued to battle wildfires Tuesday that burned at least 200,000 acres, injured several people and forced the temporary evacuation of the 1,500 residents of Robert Lee, an official with the Texas Forest Service said.
Fire officials were waiting for daylight Tuesday to assess the scope of one massive wildfire stretching across Sterling, Reagan and Irion counties in Central Texas that could be as large as 500,000 acres, said David Abernathy, an incident commander with the forest service. Airplanes will fly over the fire during daylight Tuesday to obtain more accurate mapping data, he said.
At one point the blaze moved so quickly — fueled by 50 mph winds — that flames were consuming an area the size of “a football field every minute,” Abernathy said.
Three firefighters were injured in Archer County when two fire trucks collided head on after one swerved around a car that pulled out into the road, Abernathy said. One of the firefighters was airlifted to an area hospital, an Archer County dispatcher said. He survived but his condition was unknown.
Yesterday a federal jury convicted a homeless man, Steven Emory Butcher, of starting the Day Fire, which in 2006 burned over 160,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest. The charges included willfully setting debris on fire in the forest and allowing a fire to escape from his control. The same jury also found him guilty of causing the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned about 70 acres in the same area.
The 49-year-old man faces up to 11 1/2 years in prison. The fire started in a remote area where Butcher camped for part of the year. It burned for four weeks through 254 square miles of chaparral and scattered pines in and around the Sespe Wilderness, a remote area with steep and rugged terrain. It destroyed 11 structures. The costs for suppression were over $73 million.
Strong winds in Texas, at times over 50 mph, have contributed to the spread of many fires. The state has put half the counties, 152 of them, under a burn ban. They have Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters on standby.