Teen suspect in Willow Fire arrested during court

MADERA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- The district attorney's office said a minor started the fast-spreading Willow Fire in Madera County. The fire burned more than 5,000 acres and injured six firefighters.

The young boy appeared in court Tuesday with his mother. He denied all allegations against him but in the end he was taken into custody.

Cameras were not allowed inside the Madera County juvenile courtroom. But inside, prosecutors said they urged the suspect in this summer's Willow Fire to be put in jail. David Linn, the Madera County District Attorney, confirms the boy is less than 14-years-old.

Linn said, "My personal belief is that he needs psychological treatment."

The Madera County District Attorney's Office is aggressively pursuing the case, charging the boy with felony arson and felony negligently starting a fire. The Willow Fire burned 5,700 acres northeast of North Fork, and sent six firefighters to the hospital. Linn said the minor made a full confession to authorities, even going up to the site to show them how he started the fire.

"He had obtained a lighter from I believe a tool kit in his parents car," explained Linn. "They were out in the Willow Creek area for a hike, he broke away from the family."

Linn said the boy then lit a branch with dry pine needles on fire. The flames quickly spread, and even though he said he tried to put them out, the conditions were too dry and dangerous.

"It's like a war zone almost, where the fire people come in, it was very devastating," added Linn. "It was in a very rugged area of terrain in the mountains."

If convicted of the charges, the young boy could face a long-term sentence in custody, house arrest or even in-patient treatment. Attorneys, though, are hoping to resolve the case, ideally before his next court date in two weeks.

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