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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Western District of Virginia

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Crimora Man Pleads Guilty To Setting Wildfire

Nathaniel Alden Harris Faces Possible Five Year Prison Term

HARRISONBURG, VIRGINIA -- A Crimora, Va., man pled guilty this afternoon in the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia in Harrisonburg to setting a forest fire that burned close to 600 acres of the George Washington National Forest.

Nathaniel Alden Harris, 30, of Crimora, entered a plea of guilty today to one count of intentionally setting fire to land in the George Washington National Forest in November 2011.

“Mr. Harris willfully and recklessly set multiple fires in the George Washington National Forest,” United States Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy said today. “His repeated acts of arson destroyed precious natural resources and put the brave men and women who fight these fires in harm’s way.”

Harris admitted today that between November 12 and November 13, 2011, he set fires in the area of the George Washington National Forest near Howardsville Turnpike. The defendant admitted to setting the fires by piling up leaves and branches and then igniting them. In total, six fires were set, three along the north side of Howardsville Turnpike and three along both sides of Inch Branch Road. Harris admitted that his plan for the fires he set was for them to merge into one big fire, something that did eventually occur.

In all, the fires set by Harris burned close to 600 acres of National Forest and cost in excess of $70,000 in suppression costs.

At sentencing, the defendant faces a maximum possible penalty of up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $250,000. He may also be ordered to pay restitution.

The investigation of the case was conducted by the U.S. Forest Service and the August County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant United States Attorney Ron Huber is prosecuting the case for the United States.

Updated April 15, 2015