Defendant admits to accidentally starting Malibu blaze

Defendant admits to accidentally starting Malibu blaze

2 October 2008

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USA — One of five men accused of starting last year’sCorral Canyon wildfire in Malibu, has admitted that he and his friends accidentally ignited the blaze that burned 53 homes.

Brian David Franks, 28, changed his plea to no contest Wednesday at Van Nuys Superior Court, after pleading not guilty in December to three felony charges of recklessly causing the fire.
  As part of his plea deal, Franks agreed to testify in the hearings of the other defendants: Brian Alan Anderson, 23; William Thomas Coppock, 24; Eric Matthew Ullman, 19; and Dean Allen Lavorante, 20.

Prosecutors said they will seek five years of probation and 300 hours of community service for Franks when he is sentenced Nov. 3. Anderson and Coppock are scheduled for their next hearings Oct. 17, and Ullman and Lavorante are scheduled to be arraigned Friday.

The Corral Canyon fire erupted Nov. 24, days after massive brush fires had broken out across Southern California from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border.
 The men were among two groups of young people who went to a cave at the top of a hillside in Malibu. Ullman and Lavorante and two young women first arrived and built a fire in the cave. They left after a second group, including Anderson, Coppock and Franks, showed up, according to authorities.

Embers from the fire sparked flames in the dry, high-fire-danger hillsides, which were whipped along by hot, 50 mph Santa Ana winds. Six firefighters were injured by the fire. None of the men nor their companions notified authorities, officials said.

Officials said the cave is a popular hangout for young people who go there for parties.

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