Four charged in accidentally starting Interior wildfires

Posted: Wednesday, July 02, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Four Interior residents people have been charged with improper burning that led to wildfires.

In a case that started the 400-acre Ptarmigan Fire, Ken Faust, 45, was charged with failing to comply with burn permit requirements, leaving a fire unattended, and allowing a fire to escape.

As of Monday, the department had suspended burn permits 30 of the last 61 days because of dry conditions.

The Ptarmigan Fire started June 14 near Mile 54 Steese Highway and fire officials continue to monitor it. Faust started a burn pile that spread into nearby spruce, said Division of Forestry personnel who attended a court hearing for Faust on Tuesday.

Burn permits were suspended that day.

Forestry personnel said Faust called for help when flames got out of control and that he cooperated with everyone involved.

A prosecutor Tuesday offered Faust a deal that would have required him to plead no contest to one charge. He would have avoided jail time but would have been required to make a $75,000 donation to the Interior Fire Chiefs Association Fire Prevention Fund within one year. The amount is 20 percent of the $375,000 the department personnel said it cost to fight the blaze.

Faust did not accept the deal and pleaded not guilty

Three others entered pleas to fire charges.

Justin C. Powell pleaded no contest to starting a forest fire from debris left smoldering just north of Fairbanks on May 14. He was fined $300, ordered to pay $297 in restitution and ordered to perform 10 hours of community service.

Alejandra K. Pagano pleaded no contest to starting a grass fire off the Richardson Highway near Salcha on May 25. The fire started from a campfire built in dead grass without an adequate firebreak.

Pagano was fined $100 and ordered to pay $172 in restitution and perform eight hours of community service work.

Michael L. Moore pleaded guilty to starting a one-acre brush fire off Stampede Road near Healy. The fire was ignited from burning toilet paper.

Moore was fined $150 and ordered to donate $500 to the Interior Fire Chiefs Association Fire Prevention Fund or perform 80 hours of community service.

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