Indiana Man Charged in Santa Catalina Island Brush Fire
January 22, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE LONG BEACH - An Indiana man charged in a warrant with starting the Santa Catalina Island brush fire in May 2007 waived extradition today and will be returned to Los Angeles County to face two felony counts of recklessly causing a fire. Deputy District Attorney Ann W. Ambrose of the Target Crimes Division said Gary Dennis Hunt, 49, is scheduled to be brought to Los Angeles County later this week by county arson investigators. Arraignment is tentatively scheduled for Monday in Long Beach Superior Court. Hunt was charged in a felony complaint for arrest warrant with two counts: one of recklessly causing fire to an inhabited structure and one of recklessly causing a fire of a structure or forest. Three addresses on the island were listed in the two counts. The complaint also alleged the aggravating factor that "the defendant proximately caused multiple structures to burn." He faces a possible maximum state prison term of just over eight years if convicted of the charges. Bail was recommended at $25,000. Ambrose said Hunt was arrested on Jan. 19 in Indiana. He currently is in the custody of the Gibson County Sheriff's Department. He appeared in court earlier today and waived extradition to Los Angeles. The prosecutor said Hunt was working as a subcontractor on the island and used an open-flamed torch to cut cables on the island's radio tower as part of the work. The fire sparked and spread out of control, ultimately destroying several structures and one home as it burned through more than 4,000 acres of brush. Several firefighters were injured while fighting the May 10 blaze that caused an estimated damage of more than $5 million. Ambrose said that the island has clearly posted warnings of extreme fire danger and open flames were not permitted.
Contacts: Joe Scott