California Bush Fire Victims Discover Belatedly They Are Underinsured

California Bush Fire Victims DiscoverBelatedly They Are Underinsured

06June 2008

Publishedby the

A 19-year-old man who set a small brush fire in Vista at the height of San Diego County wildfires last October was sentenced Friday to five years in state prison.

Gorgonio Nava pleaded guilty March 17 to one count of arson of forest land, and Vista Superior Court Judge Joel Pressman found true an allegation that the defendant set the Oct. 23 fire while San Diego County was under a state-declared emergency.

Nava could have received a maximum sentence of nine years in prison.

At a hearing last November, San Diego County sheriff’s bomb-arson investigator Robert Luke testified that the defendant told him that he was walking home from a store with his 16-year-old brother when they tore a sign off a telephone pole, set it aflame with a lighter and placed it under vegetation.

Nava told the investigator they thought it would be fun, but realized they made a mistake when they saw the flames, Luke testified.

The fire blackened a 200-square-foot patch of vegetation in the 1300 block of Calera Street.

Witnesses guided deputies to the apartment of Nava and his younger brother, whose case was handled separately in Juvenile Court.

Ron Lane, the county’s director of emergency services, testified that a state emergency proclamation took effect for seven Southern California counties, including San Diego, last Oct. 21.

Defense attorney Jeff Reichert said his client wasn’t aware of the proclamation, but prosecutor Roy Lai said the defendant should have known because “the whole county was burning.”

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