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Marine charged with setting Camp Pendleton fire [UPDATED]

February 25, 2009 | 10:13 am

A lance corporal has been charged with setting a fire at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps base that burned hundreds of acres and threatened homes in Fallbrook and Oceanside, officials said today.

Lance Cpl. Nason G. Lamb was charged with making a false official statement, damage of military property and three specifications of reckless endangerment in connection with the so-called Juliett 2 fire that struck the base on the afternoon of Oct. 13, 2008.

Details of the allegations were not released, but officials said the fire was started during a land-navigation exercise in the Juliett Training Area. The training did not include live fire or any “fire-producing training aids,” officials said.  The Juliett 2 fire struck just half an hour after another fire started about a mile away. Lamb is not charged in that fire.

Officials said the cause of that fire is still undetermined. The two fires merged and destroyed about 4,000 acres. Homes in Oceanside were saved by aerial air drops. The fire came within yards of the on-base home of the commanding officer of the sprawling training center.   

An Article 32 hearing, akin to a preliminary hearing in the civilian system, will be held to determine if Lamb should go to a court-martial. The allegations against Lamb were made by a special court-martial convening authority.

Updated at 11:50 a.m.: Officials said the charges against Lamb could bring a sentence of more than eight years in prison. Lamb, from Palmetto, La., has been in the Marine Corps less than two years and has not gone on a forward deployment.

-- Tony Perry