Mexican Illegal Alien Sentenced to Prison After Setting Sequoia Forest Ablaze
“A Mexican illegal alien will spend 13 months in prison and is being ordered to pay $61 million in restitution after he started a forest fire that destroyed six homes, sparked mandatory evacuations, and devoured over 45 square miles of California’s Sequoia National Forest.
Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos, 29, from Michoacán, Mexico, illegally drove off the road in the national park on August 16 with his young son. “His Nissan Maxima got stuck on a berm and his catalytic converter and muffler ignited dead grass,” sparking the blaze:
The fire swiftly spread and burned 29,322 acres in Kern and Tulare counties, according to Acting U.S. Atty. Phillip A. Talbert. Flames destroyed six homes and triggered mandatory evacuations of several communities in both counties…
Ranchers spotted Garcia-Avalos carrying his 4-year-old son on his shoulders west of the Cedar Creek Campground area, where the fire had been reported, according to a U.S. District Court complaint. They suspected he started the fire and offered to help, but he said he was OK. Still, ranchers recorded the conversation with an iPhone.
Garcia-Avalos told the ranchers that his car had been stolen and that his son saw the man who took it, and that he was walking home to Delano, which is more than 42 miles away from the Cedar Creek area, according to an affidavit written by U.S. Forest Service Special Agent Brian Adams.
The ranchers were able to convince Garcia-Avalos to enter their home so that he could call someone for help. During the visit, they asked him several questions about the fire, and Garcia-Avalos denied responsibility, prosecutors say.
At the crash site, fire investigators found a burned vehicle and shoe prints belonging to a small child and an adult. The shoe prints led investigators from the car to Highway 155.
Garcia-Avalos was sentenced to seven months in prison for lying to U.S. Forest Service law enforcement officers and six months for starting the Cedar Fire. After serving his 13-month sentence, he will be deported back to Mexico, when he’ll start paying back $61 million in damages—at the low cost of only $25 per month, or $300 each year. (At that rate, it would take Garcia-Avalos some 203,333 years to pay the total cost of the damages.)
Sequoia National Forest, founded as a national park in 1890, holds the “greatest concentration of giant sequoia groves in the world,” according to the U.S. Forest Service. The giant sequoia is the single species in its genus and grows naturally in only one area of the world, the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. These magnificent trees are the oldest and largest living things on Earth.”
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