Angel Gilberto Garcia-Avalos had been deported five times in just the past four years, yet each time he has managed to sneak from Mexico back into the U.S., where he ended up in more mischief: driving without a license, attempted burglary and felony weapons charges.
In August, he graduated to full-fledged mayhem, sparking a fire in the Sequoia National Forest that has already cost the government $61 million and left some of the country’s most beautiful landscape scarred for years to come.
Garcia, who pleaded guilty last month and faces 13 months in prison, had only recently been released from the Kern County Jail. He likely would have been deported again, but local authorities were unable to report him to immigration authorities because of California’s new sanctuary city law, which prohibited the sheriff from communicating with federal agents.
Federal agents now say they will kick Garcia out of the country once he serves his latest sentence, but the damage has already been done.
At a point along State Highway 155 through the Sequoia National Forest, the smell of cedar gives way to the stench of soot. Ash-blackened trees above and below the roadway show the path of the blaze.
Investigators determined that the spark came from a Nissan Maxima that Garcia was driving over a rough dirt trail near Cedar Creek. Garcia tried to drive over a berm and hit a tree. The hot muffler on his car ignited grass parched by years of drought, investigators said in an account filed in federal court.