DA announces arson treatment program

On Thursday, the Madera County District Attorney’s Office, in partnership with Cornerstone Family Counseling of Oakhurst, will open an arson treatment program for youth offenders, District Attorney David Linn said.

“This program will serve to treat previously convicted youth offenders, four of whom will start attending the program March 1,” Linn said. “It is designed to be a regional program and serve as an asset to central California law enforcement.”

Linn said one of the program’s primary goals will be to provide treatment for teenagers who families believe may be a risk at turning into arsonists.

Youth arson has been an issue in the Mountain Area for years.

In 2014, a 15-year-old boy was convicted for starting 13 fires in the Oakhurst community. He and his family left town after he violated court orders by taking photographs of the 5,702-acre Willow Fire that ravaged the North Fork area last year.

Additionally, the Willow Fire was allegedly sparked by a teen playing with a lighter taken from his family toolbox, while the Sundance Fire near Deadwood Mountain, which grew to 13 acres before it was contained in September, was allegedly caused by two teen boys lighting spray from aeresol cans and firing the flames at each other.

The program will be announced at 3 p.m. Thursday in front of the Mountain Area branch of the District Attorney’s Office, located at 48267 Liberty Drive.

Linn, Jolinda Thomas of Cornerstone, Cal Fire Battalion Chief Bernie Quinn, and District 5 Supervisor Tom Wheeler will speak at the press conference.