LOS ANGELES – Three men were charged in federal court Tuesday with causing a wildfire in the Southern California mountains that destroyed five homes and injured six people.
Clifford Henry Jr., 22, of Glendora, and two homeless men — Steven Aguirre, 21, and Jonathan Jarrell, 24 — were charged with unlawfully setting a campfire, and each could face up to five years in prison if convicted, according to a statement from the U.S. attorney's office.
The three men were arrested Thursday and would spend the night in federal custody, U.S. attorney's spokesman Thom Mrozek said.
It was not immediately clear whether they had obtained attorneys. They were expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday.
Authorities say the men set a campfire in the Angeles National Forest northeast of Los Angeles on Thursday at a time when dry, blustery Santa Ana winds were creating an extreme fire danger and the forest had banned campfires except in certain areas.
The men told investigators that they had made a campfire to keep warm that morning and threw a notebook into the flames, but a wind gust tossed a burning piece of paper into some brush, according to a court filing.
Glendora police stopped Henry and Aguirre running in a wash near the fire, and a U.S. Forest Service employee picked up Jarrell near the fire later.
Henry "smelled of smoke and ... had burnt ashes on his clothing," according to a court filing.
The fast-moving wildfire burned more than 3 square miles, destroying five houses and damaging about 17 homes and other buildings. It prompted an evacuation order for thousands of people in the communities of Glendora and Azusa before winds eased and fire crews were able to begin surrounding it.
The fire was 98 percent contained Tuesday.