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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Santa Clarita

3 Sentenced to Community Service, Fines in Blaze

November 06, 1998|MICHAEL BAKER

Three Saugus men arrested for starting a 400-acre fire in the Angeles National Forest in July by setting off illegal fireworks were sentenced Thursday to a combined 500 hours of community service and were ordered to pay a $128,000 fine.

During their sentencing in San Fernando Superior Court, James Bruggeman, 20, and Daniel Pearson, 19, were ordered to perform 200 hours of community service each with the U.S. Forest Service or in a burn ward, Deputy Dist. Atty. Marlo Dickman said. Michael McCune, 19, was ordered to serve 100 hours of community service.

After pleading no contest to one count each of recklessly causing a fire, all three were placed on five years' felony probation and fined nearly $43,000 each to repay the firefighting costs, Dickman said.

"What's important is that the punishment fit the crime, and I think they were treated very fairly," Dickman said. "It's clear the fire was not intentional."

The men were arrested on July 20 near the scene of the fire, which began about two miles north of San Francisquito Canyon and Riverview roads. Four air tankers, four helicopters and more than 350 Los Angeles County and Forest Service firefighters battled the blaze, which burned for eight hours.

Sheriff's arson investigators said the three men accidentally began the blaze while exploding illegal fireworks they had purchased in Mexico.

At their initial arraignment in Newhall Municipal Court, the three men pleaded not guilty to the felony charges. On Sept. 21, after bargaining with the district attorney's office, the men changed their pleas to no contest.

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