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Glendale teen pleads guilty to starting 3 fires on national forest land

Damage from one of the fires. (Coconino County Sheriff's Office)

PHOENIX — A 16-year-old from Glendale pleaded guilty to starting three fires on Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest land in Arizona, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday.

The teenager started the fires May 27 and 28, 2018, in the Black Mesa Ranger District outside of Forest Lakes, about 130 miles northwest of Phoenix.

The first fire burned about 11 acres before crews contained it. While crews were fighting the second fire, which burned a quarter of an acre, the third was reported and burned through the same amount of land.

The suspect had been camping with family in the area when he piled up sticks and lit them on fire while his cousins watched, according to a press release.

The suspect told investigators he enjoyed watching the colors and acknowledged he knew of the fires’ destructive nature, the release said.

The teen was arrested and ultimately charged with three counts of reckless burning under Arizona state law after federal prosecutors handed the case to the county due to the suspect’s age.

He pleaded guilty to one count — the other two were dismissed — and was ordered to pay $75,000 in restitution.

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