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Forum News Service, Published November 22 2013

Ex-fire chief pleads guilty to forestland arson

MINNEAPOLIS - Former Babbitt Fire Chief Ryan Scharber pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis to two counts of setting fires to forestland in the Superior National Forest.

Scharber, 30, pleaded 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. He faces a potential maximum penalty of 20 years in prison on the attempted arson count and five years on the count of setting fires.

He will be sentenced at a later date.

The U.S. attorney's office accused Scharber of setting fires in the Superior National Forest on Oct. 7-9 and Oct. 11, 2011, and on April 29 and Sept. 10, 2012.

Scharber also was charged with attempted arson at Mattila's Birch Lake Resort in Babbitt on Dec. 3, 2011.

Scharber joined the Babbitt Fire Department in August 2005 and became fire chief in January 2008. He resigned as chief in December 2012, around the time city officials were told a federal investigation was underway.