RUIDOSO, N.M. (KRQE) - Two teens accused of sparking a wildfire that destroyed five homes last year claim they didn't do it. They were in court Tuesday to face arson charges.
The interim fire chief also responded to rumors about a cover-up involving one of the teens; his nephew.
The attorney for 13-year old Konor Mantia, denied the charge of negligent arson in a public hearing Tuesday in Ruidoso Magistrate court.
The twelfth judicial District Attorney filed negligent arson charges against Mantia and 16-year-old Brantan Shaw.
The two teens are accused of setting off fireworks in the National Forest last April, sparking the White Fire.
The wind-driven blaze burned more than 10,000 acres and five homes.
Shaw's attorney also denied the allegations filed against his client, and asked for the case to be heard by a jury.
Although it's been more than a year since the White Fire, for many people affected, the images are still fresh. Many people hope to get closure from this case.
"I think the community deserves to have some closure on this fire, there was lots of rumors, lots of allegations made and you know, we'll just hopefully let the courts run it's toll," said interim fire chief, Harlan Vincent.
Vincent has been been at the center of a rumor mill since the White Fire. There is gossip in the community that he tried to cover up how the fire started.
"The fire did start behind my father-in-laws house, and his grandson was one of the kids that was there when I showed up," Vincent explained, referring to Shaw. "Whether he's guilty or not, I'm not the judge of that."
Among the rumors, were that family members called Vincent before calling 9-1-1, and that Vincent responded in his personal vehicle. Vincent said both of those claims are not true.
Vincent said he's never tried to cover up anything involving this case. "I've never tarnished my badge in this village in 20 years, and will never tarnish it," said Vincent.
He said that day, his goal was and always is fighting the fire, and that hopefully justice will be served in this case.
Recalling the high winds when the White Fire sparked, Vincent said he wants to again remind the community to sign up for their emergency alert system . "The community we live in is number one in the nation for catastrophic wildfire," he said.
Both teens were released to their parents and ordered to stay away from each other. A pre-trial is set for later this summer.
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