Man involved in starting Corral Canyon fire sentenced

Man involved in starting Corral Canyon fire sentenced

19 February 2009

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USA — A Los Angeles man involved in starting the destructive Corral Canyon fire in Malibu was sentenced today to five years probation and 300 hours of community service.

As part of the probation, Brian David Franks, 28, will have to testify at the trials of the other men accused of involvement in the fire, the district attorney’s office said after the sentencing in a Van Nuys courtroom. The Corral Canyon wildfire, which started in 2007 in the midst of massive brush fires from Santa Barbara County to the Mexican border, injured several firefighters and burned more than 50 homes.

Officials believe the fire started after young people built an illegal campfire in a cave at the top of a hillside. Embers from the fire sparked flames on the dry hillsides, whipped along by the Santa Ana winds. Detectives found alcohol containers, food wrappers and bundled fire logs, and they were able to trace the items to five suspects.

Deputy Public Defender Douglas Goldstein, Franks’s lawyer, said he believed the sentencing was fair and his client was “very sorry” about what happened.

“His involvement wasn’t as significant as the other defendants in the case,” Goldstein said. “Brian was the only one who tried to put the fire out.”

The charges against Brian Alan Anderson, William Thomas Coppock, Eric Matthew Ullman and Dean Allen Lavorante are pending, according to the district attorney’s office. They are accused of recklessly causing a fire with great bodily injury and recklessly causing a fire to multiple inhabited structures.

Goldstein said Franks has already testified in preliminary hearings against Anderson and Coppock. He was unsure if his client would be involved in the other two defendants’ cases.

The sentencing by Judge Leslie Dunn came more than four months after Franks pleaded no contest to a felony count of recklessly causing a structure or forest fire. About 20 people testified at the sentencing hearing about harrowing escapes and the fire’s impact on their homes and pets. Dunn ordered Franks to stay away from the Corral Canyon area unless he is doing court-supervised community service. That community service will involve brush clearance and other fire abatement work. The judge also ordered Franks to pay restitution, but that amount would be determined at a later date.

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