10 accused of starting wildfires

Aug. 8, 2007 at 2:55 PM
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LOS ANGELES, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors have indicted 10 individuals and businesses on charges of inadvertently starting wildfires in Southern California.

Among those charged was Steven Emory Butcher, a frequent camper accused of starting a wildfire in 2002 and another in 2006 by not following proper safety guidelines with his campfires, the Los Angeles Times reported Wednesday. He was indicted Tuesday on eight charges, including two felony counts that could each yield sentences of up to five years in prison.

A Santa Maria, Calif., woman is also accused of starting a "signal" fire when she became separated from her boyfriend during a hike that grew out of control and became a wildfire. Workers who allegedly started a fire with sparks from equipment and two men accused of starting a fire while target shooting were also indicted.

"In past years we might not have used U.S. attorney resources to prosecute cases like these," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Johns, who is overseeing the cases. "But we want to drive home the point that this is a high-alert time."

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