A federal jury on Thursday convicted the last of three suspects charged with starting the damaging Colby Fire above Glendora early this year, as officials cautioned that a looming storm poses a potential debris flow threat to the barren hillsides created by the wildfire.
The Los Angeles jury convicted Jonathan Carl Jarrell, a 23-year-old transient, of one felony and one misdemeanor in connection with a campfire that grew out of control on Jan. 16 and became the 1,952-acre wildfire that burned five homes and 17 other structures. One civilian and five firefighters were hurt during the fire.
Jarrell was found guilty of one felony charge of unlawfully setting timber afire, and a misdemeanor charge of illegally starting a fire, U.S. Department of Justice spokesman Thom Mrozek said in a written statement. The jury deadlocked on two additional misdemeanor charges related to the fire.
“As a result of today’s guilty verdicts, Jarrell faces up to five-and-a-half years in federal prison when he is sentenced by United States District Judge George H. Wu on July 31,” Mrozek said.
The final conviction in the three-defendant case came just as Glendora city officials issued a “Yellow Alert” to urge residents to be prepared of the possibility of mud or debris flows in the hillsides denuded by the Colby Fire.
The thunderstorm was expected to hit Palmdale hardest, however officials issued the Yellow Alert, “due to the unpredictability of thunderstorms and the possibility it may go over the Colby Impact Area,” Glendora police officials said in a written statement.
Two friend’s of Jarrell’s were tried separately and each convicted by a federal jury May 16 of one felony count of unlawfully setting timber afire and three other misdemeanor charges related to illegally starting a campfire.
Clifford Eugene Henry, 22, of Glendora and transient Steven Robert Aguirre, 21, each face up to six-and-a-half years in federal prison when they return to court for sentencing Aug. 4, officials said.
“Henry, Aguirre and Jarrell were detained by Glendora police officers after they were seen escaping the fire,” Mrozek said. “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 two trials — all three defendants admitted playing a role in the starting of a campfire that started the Colby Fire after wind blew burning paper into the brush in the hills above Glendora.”
The investigation was carried out by the Glendora Police Department, the U.S. Forest Service and the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
PHOTO of Jonathan Jarrell: courtesy