A 16-year-old from Glendale has pleaded guilty to starting three fires on the Black Mesa Ranger District of the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests outside of Forest Lakes.
The fires were started on May 27 and 28, 2018 in the area of Forest Road 178. The first fire was started on May 27 and burned to about 11 acres before fire crews could contain and control the fire.
The second fire was started on May 28 and burned a quarter acre before fire crews could contain and control the fire. The third fire was reported while fire crews were fighting the second fire. This fire was contained and controlled at a quarter acre.
Forest Service fire crews and Forest Lakes Fire Department responded to the fires and conducted containment and suppression operations.
The resident Forest Service officer in Forest Lakes conducted the investigation and found evidence all three fires were human caused.
Investigators identified the juvenile suspect. The suspect had been with several family members camping in the area.
The suspect made statements that he had piled sticks or branches and lit them on fire for his cousins.
The suspect said he was fascinated with fire and enjoyed watching the colors, but also acknowledged he knew the destructive potential of fire.
The suspect was initially detained, arrested and later released to his parents on three federal counts of causing timber, trees and grass to burn.
The juvenile was ultimately charged with three counts of reckless burning. The suspect pleaded guilty to one count of reckless burning with two counts being dismissed. He was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution for the cost of fire suppression.