Oct. 18--A volunteer firefighter who had pleaded guilty to setting three grass fires during a drought last fall was sentenced Friday to a year of probation.
At the time of the fires, Cody Knox, 19, from Arlington, was studying fire science at Hutchinson Community College and was a volunteer firefighter with Reno County Fire District No. 4, which covers Arlington, Langdon, Plevna and Abbyville.
The prosecution did not object to the probationary sentence because Knox had no prior criminal history.
During the sentencing hearing, Knox's attorney, David E. Roberts, said that the fires had been set in roadside ditches, at a time when there was no wind. Roberts also said there weren't any structures, fences or livestock nearby.
"That's not to say that this is something to be scoffed at," Roberts said, "but Mr. Knox set the fires in a situation and at time when there was the least possibility of damage, and there was no damage because the fires were just in ditches."
Knox apologized for his actions and said he understood that they were "100 percent wrong."
Roberts also noted that Knox, who was originally charged with setting 14 fires, was within days of being inducted into the Army at the time but has lost his chance to join the Army as a result. Roberts also sited an evaluation by Horizons Mental Health that concluded he had no signs of mental illness or lack of impulse control and chalked Knox's actions up to "poorly thought out youthful indiscretions."
Reno County District Judge Tim Chambers rejected that conclusion, saying "a 19-year-old has the cognitive ability to make rational decisions." Chambers said that although no damage was done, even controlled burns can get out of control and put the lives of firefighters and members of the public in danger.
"You committed an incredibly dangerous act," Chambers said.
If Knox, who now has a full-time job working on a farm, violates the terms of his probation, he could have to serve a prison sentence of 12 months.
Copyright 2013 - The Hutchinson News, Kan.