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Peri Van Brunt Charged In Wildfire

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A woman accused of sparking the 60-thousand-acre wildfire that is threatening groves of ancient sequoia trees has been arraigned.

During a brief hearing in U.S. District Court in Fresno today, Peri Van Brunt was charged with willfully setting a fire without a permit. She hasn´t entered a plea, but her lawyer says she denies the charges.

Van Brunt allegedly lit a campfire to cook hot dogs and that blaze blew out of control. The Bakersfield woman is being held without bail at Fresno County Jail. A bail hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

The woman has a history of drug convictions. Court documents say she told authorities she was smoking methamphetamine the night before the fire.

She was arrested Wednesday after witnesses say she spoke about her campfire getting out of control. Investigators say she´s been cooperative.

If convicted, Van Brunt faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.

Crews fighting the blaze have succeeded in sparing many of the big trees, though the fire still had the potential to reach eleven of 38 groves in Giant Sequoia National Monument.