An ex-firefighter for the Bureau of Land Management pleaded guilty to setting three wildfires that burned hundreds of acres of national forest land in north-central Nevada last summer, federal prosecutors said Monday.
Investigators alleged Mark E. Morgan of Reno started the fires
that burned hundreds of acres of national forest land last August
because he was bored and needed the paycheck, according to court
Morgan, 34, faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000
fine, as well as being required to pay restitution for the damages
to federal property, U.S. Attorney Daniel G. Bogden said.
He entered the plea Thursday in U.S. District Court in Reno
before Judge Edward C. Reed Jr., Bogden said in a statement Monday.
Reed set sentencing for Oct. 23.
Morgan was employed as a member of a BLM fire crew based in
Austin at the time of the fires. He also had worked before fighting
fires for the U.S. Forest Service.
The three fires were set between Aug. 19 and Aug. 29 in the
Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest near Austin about 170 miles east
of Reno. They burned timber, brush and grassland in excess of 550
Two miles of fence burned in one of the fires, but there was no
damage to structures or any injuries reported.
Morgan initially denied any role in the arson fires, but
eventually admitted in December that he started two of the fires
with a cigarette lighter and the third with a flare gun, which he
disposed of in the city dump, according to a transcript obtained by
The Associated Press.
"I don't even know what was going through my head or why I
would try something stupid like that in the position I'm in.
Probably going to cost me my job now," Morgan told interrogators
at the time.