|Two men who have been accused of starting the 2007 Malibu Correl Canyon fire have pleaded no contest yesterday to the infamous blaze that destroyed 53 homes, injured six firefighter and destroyed some 4,900 acres of land.|
According to the Los Angeles Times, William Thomas Coppock, 26, and Brian Alan Anderson, 24 were charged with "recklessly starting a fire causing injury" and "causing an inhabited structure to burn. Sentencing is set for September 9, which can mean a penalty up to four years in state prison. They have meanwhile been ordered to surrender to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation for a "diagnostic evaluation."
The pair entered an "open plea" because they were not offered a plea deal with the district attorney's office. An open plea means that the judge has great latitude in imposing a sentence.
A third man involved in the fire, Brian David Franks, testified in a preliminary hearing against Coppock and Anderson. Franks pleaded no contest and was sentenced to 300 hours of community service and five years of probation. Two other men, Dean Allen Lavorante, and Eric Matthew Ullman, are facing two felony accounts each for their involvement in the wildfire as well.
Prosecutors allege that the five men started an illegal campfire in a cave in the Malibu hills. Anderson and Coppock are considered chiefly responsible because they kicked burning pillows and wood out of the cave, where high, dry winds carried the fire and ignited the surrounding area. Arson investigations traced food wrappers, alcohol bottles and fire logs to a nearby supermarket where a connection was established to the five men.
Many residents of the western United States aren't aware of the risks involved with wildfires, which in most cases, happen by accident. For more information, read Alex Molina's Preparing for Wildfires.