A federal grand jury has indicted the 32-year-old hunter accused of sparking last year’s devastating Rim Fire, which burned more than 250,00 acres near Yosemite National Park and grew to become the third-largest wildfire in California state history.
Keith Matthew Emerald of Columbia, Calif. allegedly lit a small fire while deer hunting in the Stanislaus National Forest last September, ignoring the fire restrictions in the area. The Los Angeles Timesreports that Emerald has been charged with two felonies (setting timber afire and lying to a government agency) and two misdemeanors (violating a fire restriction order and leaving a fire unextinguished).
The felony charges each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison while the misdemeanors carry a maximum of six months each.
Emerald originally told authorities that he believed a rock slide had caused the fire to grow out of control. Later, he said that he thought the fire could have been started by marijuana growers. During a third interview, Emerald revealed that he had built a personal campfire that he could not control.
The Rim Fire, which began on August 17, 2013, burned for 9 weeks, injuring 10 people and destroying 100 structures in Yosemite and the surrounding area. Fighting the fire cost over $125 million, with damages and repairs expected to cost millions more.
Read more: LA Times