Virginia man admits to starting 600-acre national forest fire

George Washington National Forest in February 2011. Nikki Fox,AP Photo/The Daily News-Record

(AP) HARRISONBURG, Va. - An Augusta County man has pleaded guilty to setting a fire that burned nearly 600 acres of the George Washington National Forest.

The U.S. attorney's office says 30-year-old Nathaniel Alden Harris entered his plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Harrisonburg. He pleaded guilty to one count of intentionally setting the November 2011 fire.

According to the government, Harris acknowledged piling up leaves and branches, then igniting them. He set six fires.

Prosecutors say the cost of putting out the 600-acre fire totaled $70,000.

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U.S. Attorney Timothy J. Heaphy also said Harris put at risk the "brave men and women" who had to put out those fires.

At sentencing, Harris faces up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.

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