NORTH FORK – Today, United States Forest Service Law Enforcement Investigators have stated that the Willow Fire on the Sierra National Forest, which started July 25 and has charred over 1,700 acres between North Fork and Bass Lake, Calif., was human caused.
USFS Law Enforcement Officers, working in conjunction with the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, have identified a juvenile male suspect in relation to the cause of the fire. Because of the age of the individual, no further details can be released at this time.
“We will continue working with USFS investigators throughout the judicial process,” says District Attorney David Linn. “We’re pretty convinced we’ve got a good case.”
Linn and his Chief Investigator John Markle and Mountain Area Investigator David Engstrom, along with Forest Service investigators met with the suspect and his family this morning near North Fork at the origin of the fire.
Linn told the media that the young boy was trying to light some branches on fire with a lighter, and though the family tried to put it out, the fire got away from them.
If found guilty, the suspect will face punishment that ranging from probation to time in juvenile hall under the California Division of Juvenile Justice, says Linn.
Linn said the alleged actions of suspect in the Willow Fire are not connected to those of a high school student who is serving one year probation after being convicted for intentionally starting 13 fires in the area of John West and Jean East roads between July and September last year.
Linn says he expects to file charges within a week, after receiving one final report from the Forest Service, though he did not say exactly what the charges would be.
The Willow Fire started near the end of Willow Canyon Drive just north of North Fork and east of the southern end of Bass Lake.