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2 plead no contest to starting 2007 Malibu fire that destroyed 53 homes

June 2, 2010 | 12:40 pm

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/photos/uncategorized/2008/11/16/breafire.jpgTwo men accused of starting the Malibu Corral Canyon fire in 2007 pleaded no contest Wednesday morning to recklessly starting the blaze that consumed 53 homes and injured six firefighters.

Brian Alan Anderson and William Thomas Coppock, who were 22 and 23 at the time of the fire, admitted to felony charges of starting a fire that caused injury and caused an inhabited structure or inhabited property to burn. An additional charge alleging that the men set the fire in an area where a state of emergency had been declared is expected to be dropped at the time of sentencing.

The men were ordered to undergo a diagnostic study in June and return to court in September for sentencing. A third man, Brian David Franks, pleaded no contest in 2008 and received a sentence of five years' probation and 300 hours of community service. 

Franks testified in the preliminary hearing for Anderson and Coppock. Charges against two other defendants, Dean Allen Lavorante and Eric Matthew Ullman, remain pending.

Authorities accused the five men, whom they described as coming from working- and middle-class backgrounds, of starting an illegal campfire in a cave in the Malibu hills known as a late-night party hangout. Police identified the men by tracing alcohol containers, food wrappers and bundled fire logs left at the site to a nearby grocery store.

--Victoria Kim

Photo: Firefighters battle the 2007 blaze. L.A. Times file