Charges to wait on alleged Willow Fire starter

Due to the Willow Fire’s continued growth and uncertain progress, Madera County District Attorney David Linn announced Thursday his office doesn’t expect to file charges on the boy who allegedly started the blaze until sometime next week.

“Formal reports will not be filed until the reports have been received and all of the facts have been analyzed,” Linn’s office said in a press release.

The juvenile suspect allegedly started the growing inferno - at 3,383 acres Thursday afternoon - by lighting some small pine branches on fire near Willow Canyon Drive with a lighter he obtained from a toolkit in his family’s car.

Once the branches fell to the forest floor, the flames quickly grew out of control. The family, not around as the boy allegedly commited the act, heard him screaming for help and ran to try and put out the flames.

The family has been extremely cooperative with the investigation, Linn said, and immediately called the blaze in to 911.

Because of the boy’s minor status, authorities won’t provide further details, such as his age, name, or hometown.

If found guilty of possible charges, the juvenile will face punishments that range from probation to time in juvenile hall under the California Division of Juvenile Justice.

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

The Willow Fire forced mandatory evacuations of Cascadel Woods Thursday morning, and remained 30% contained by the afternoon.