Final Colby Fire Starter Sentenced To Probation

The last man found guilty of igniting the destructive Colby Fire was sentenced Monday morning.

Jonathan Jarrell, was sentenced to three years of probation with 30 hours of community service per month. Jarrell is also ordered, along with friends Steve Aguirre and Clifford Henry, Jr.,  to pay the more than $9.16 million restitution order, said U.S. Attorney’s Office Spokesman Thom Mrozek.

Jarrell was convicted on two of the four counts brought against him:

Count 1: Setting timber afire, aiding and abetting and causing an act to be done; a maximum five-year prison sentence and a $250,000 fine.

Count 3: Causing timber, trees, and brush to burn without a permit.

Prosecutors Joseph Johns and Amanda Betinelli sought prison time for Jarrell, but U.S. District Judge George Wu decided on probation and community service.

Sentencing is normally tailored to the circumstances of each defendant, Betinelli said, factoring in such variables as the damage and destruction suffered in both Glendora and Azusa, cost of fighting the fire, as well as the subsequent mudslides.

“The custodial sentence requested involved an attempt to get the court to factor in the victim’s experience, as well as the criminal act and concerns for the rehabilitation and subsequent educational objectives the court may have for the defendant in finding the appropriate sentence,” Betinelli said.

Prosecutors believed the custodial sentence sought was appropriate due to the fact that Jarrell confessed to throwing a notebook on the small campfire which then grew out of control after a gust of wind carried the burning paper into nearby brush.

Jarrell’s sentencing was delayed, pending his involvement in a mental and drug rehabilitation program.

Prosecutors were dissatisfied with Wu’s sentencing, considering Jarrell knew about the Red Flag warning in effect and that lighting a fire during such dangerous conditions was just “stupid.”

“The best we can hope for, the imperfect justice of this moment, is deterrence in the future,” Betinelli said.

Glendora Police Chief Tim Staab was also dissatisfied with Wu’s ruling.

“The Federal judge did not believe the crime of reckless arson rose to the level of a felony. Regardless of their punishment, it will never equal the anguish and expense that Glendora residents have suffered through and will continue to endure for years to come,” Staab said.

In a previous GCN article, the city of Glendora was told that out of the entire restitution order, it would receive just over $48,385 to cover payroll costs the Police Department incurred responding to the fire and both rain events in February/March and Nov. 21, said Jamie Caldwell, emergency services manager for Glendora.

In August of 2014, Steven Aguirre and Clifford Henry, Jr., were tried together and found guilty of one felony count and three misdemeanors related to igniting the Colby Fire and sentenced to time in federal prison.

Aguirre received a four-month sentence, with Henry, Jr., receiving a six-month sentence. The low recommendation for sentencing was 60 to 66 months in federal prison, much higher than what Wu handed down.

The Colby Fire, which was ignited Jan. 16, 2014, burned 1,952 acres across the mountains from Glendora to Azusa, destroying six homes, damaging eight homes and burning 17 other structures.