Former northern Minnesota fire chief admits to setting fires in forest

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A former fire chief from northern Minnesota has pleaded guilty to setting fires in the Superior National Forest.

The Duluth News Tribune reports that former Babbitt Fire Chief Ryan Scharber pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to two counts of setting fires to forest land.

Scharber pleaded guilty to one count of setting fires on U.S. forest land and one count of attempted arson on property in and affecting interstate or foreign commerce.

Federal prosecutors say Scharber set the fires in Superior National Forest on Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 11, 2011. It also says he set fires on Apr. 29 and Sept. 10, 2012, according to a report from the Associated Press. Scharber was also charged with attempted arson at Mattila's Birch Lake Resort on Dec. 3, 2011.

He joined the Babbitt Fire Department in Aug. 2005 and became chief in Jan. 2008. He resigned as chief in Dec. 2012, around the time city officials were told that a federal investigation was underway.

He faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the attempted arson charge and five years on the charge of setting fires.

Scharber will be sentenced at a later date.

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