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FIREFIGHTER, 31, DENIES HE SET 3 FOREST FIRES

A federal firefighter is accused of deliberately setting three blazes earlier this year that destroyed 800 acres of the Los Padres National Forest.

Craig Matthew Underwood, who works for the U.S. Forest Service, was arraigned Wednesday in federal court on three counts of willfully setting fire to federal lands.

Underwood, 31, pleaded not guilty and was ordered to appear in court again Dec. 17. Bail was set at $150,000.

If convicted, Underwood faces five years in prison, a $250,000 fine and three years of supervised probation for each count.

Underwood was arrested Tuesday after federal investigators tracked him using a court-approved global positioning device attached to his truck, the U.S. attorney's office said in a statement.

The blazes were started July 28, Aug. 15 and Sept. 22, the peak of California's fire season. They cost a total of $2.5 million to extinguish, officials said.

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