VISTA (CNS) - Two men who started a fire that scorched 22 square miles of mountainous backcountry between Warner Springs and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park pleaded guilty Friday to arson charges.
Jesse James Durbin, 23, and Jeremy Joseph Ortiz, 24, will each be sentenced to six years in state prison at a hearing May 11.
Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez told Vista Judge Daniel Goldstein that a psychological evaluation of the defendants revealed that they intended to burn a guard shack at the Eagle Rock Training Center on the edge of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation last July 21 but did not intend to burn the 14,100 acres consumed in the blaze.
Perez said the defendants' actions placed them in danger to the point they had to be rescued by firefighters. The defendants were also under the influence of alcohol, the prosecutor said.
The fire -- which cost about $15 million to fight --- left 18 firefighters with heat exhaustion, cuts, sprains, abrasions and other minor injuries. No homes were destroyed in the fire that took a week to extinguish.
Ortiz -- who had worked as a security guard at the training center -- was arrested Aug. 4, while Durbin already was jailed in an unrelated auto-theft case when authorities charged him with arson.
Both are members of the Los Coyotes Indian tribe. According to authorities, Ortiz admitted pouring gasoline at the guard shack and said Durbin lit the fire.
Authorities have not disclosed a motive in the case, but a Los Coyotes tribal member said Ortiz had been pressured to quit his job at the Eagle Rock Training Center, operated by a private firm on land leased from Los Coyotes and used for military training and film productions.
The Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cuopeno Indians, considered one of the poorest tribes in San Diego County, has for nearly 10 years been looking into building a casino in Barstow.
For most, the gravity of Monday’s extraordinary celestial event isn’t appreciated. San Diego public libraries and the University of California, San Diego Extension presented programs on the history and science of solar eclipses to help the public gain a better handle on things.
Terror attacks in Barcelona, Spain, this week have provoked nationwide vigils and displays of unity, including here in San Diego County.
Councilman Chris Cate hosted a “bags” tournament Saturday to benefit junior lifeguards and the good deeds of local police.
Evacuation orders affecting hundreds of people were issued in California and Oregon as wildfires neared small towns, including one that's a prime location for viewing the eclipse.
Left-wing groups and Berlin residents prevented more than 500 far-right extremists from marching Saturday to the place where high-ranking Nazi official Rudolf Hess died 30 years ago.
Temperatures are expected to be about average over the next week throughout San Diego County with the warmest temperatures in that period expected Friday and Saturday.
Coming together to celebrate diversity was the message of a block party Friday night in North Park – which took on new meaning after the violence in Virginia.
Laguna Beach in Orange County is gearing up for a large anti-immigration rally this weekend and police are preparing for any trouble that may come out of the “America First” protest set for Sunday.
The brother of a Sinaloa cartel leader has been arrested at an Arizona border crossing, less than a month after his nephew surrendered to U.S. authorities.