Juvenile suspect identified as starting Willow Fire

A juvenile male allegedly lit some pine branches on fire that later caused the Willow Fire which has burned 1,739 acres near North Fork and Bass Lake, Madera County District Attorney David Linn said Tuesday.

Linn said the boy got separated from his family, then lit the branches on fire that fell to the forest floor to ignite the ongoing blaze.

Linn added it appeared the boy and his family, who reported the fire to authorities, attempted to put the flames out by themselves.

Because of the suspect’s minor status and charges have yet to be filed, authorities did not provide further details, such as the boy’s age, name, or hometown.

“We will continue working with the USFS investigators throughout the judicial process,” Linn said.

Linn said he, his office’s chief investigator John Markle, and Mountain Area investigator David Engstrom went to North Fork Tuesday morning to meet with “relevant witnesses.”

Charges are expected to be filed in the next few days, and if found guilty, the suspect will face punishments that range from probation to time in juvenile hall under the California Division of Juvenile Justice.

Linn said the Willow Fire suspect’s alleged actions are completely unrelated to those of a high school student who is serving one year probation after being convicted for intentionally starting 13 fires in the Oakhurst area between July and September last year.

Further information on the Willow Fire case will be made available if, or when, charges are brought forward.

The Willow Fire grew to nearly 2,000 acres since its start on Saturday, July 25 at 2 p.m., and is only 30% containment.

Details: Madera County District Attorney’s Office (559) 675-7726.