Transient Accused in Altadena Blaze Pleads Innocent to Misdemeanor With AM-Wildfires, Bjt
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) _ A transient who police say lit some brush in a campground to stay warm pleaded innocent Friday to starting a wildfire that torched 118 homes.
Andres Huang, 35, a Chinese immigrant, pleaded innocent to one misdemeanor count of setting a fire without a permit.
He was ordered held in lieu of $25,000 bail and faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine if convicted. Trial was set for Nov. 15.
The Los Angeles district attorney’s office asked the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service to put a detention hold on Huang, who authorities say arrived in Miami from Peru three months ago. He had been in the Los Angeles area about a month.
Huang was arrested Wednesday for investigation of unlawfully starting a fire, a felony. The blaze, one of 13 that raged throughout Southern California this week, burned 118 homes and other buildings in the northeast Los Angeles suburb of Altadena.
In a statement, the district attorney’s office said a conviction under the felony law requires that a fire be set recklessly, with the person aware of and disregarding a risk that the fire can burn a structure or forest.
Huang, prosecutors said, ″lighted a fire simply to keep warm and was not aware of any substantial risk that his act would result in burning structures or hillsides.″ Huang also didn’t have the intent needed for the crime of arson, the statement said.
Authorities said Huang was sleeping in the hills above Altadena and started a fire early Wednesday morning to keep warm. After failing to stamp it out, he ran for help and injured himself tumbling down a slope.
He was being held in the jail ward of County-USC Medical Center.