POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) - A Salt Lake City man faces up to six
months in jail and a $300 fine for igniting a wildfire that burned
4,000 acres of southeastern Idaho range this summer.
Dale Takeo, 41, will be sentenced Nov. 12.
Bannock County Magistrate Judge Gaylen Box found Takeo, a
transient, guilty of a misdemeanor after prosecutors reduced the
charge from felony third-degree arson. He was charged with starting
the July 21 Harkness Fire between McCammon and Lava Hot Springs.
"The only thing we could prove in this case is that it was
careless or negligent," Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Dennis
Wilkinson said. A felony conviction would have required proof that
Takeo intentionally started the blaze.
The fire forced the evacuation of about 40 homes before it
consumed two houses and two outbuildings. It also destroyed
critical winter range for deer. It cost about $1 million to
suppress.
Wilkinson said Takeo was camping a mile up Harkness Canyon Road
and lit a piece of paper on fire. The wind blew the paper out of
his hand and started the fire.
The conviction, Wilkinson said, is only "a moral victory as the
victims of the fire lost so much and will continue to clean up the
damage long after Takeo has served his sentence."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)