It was announced on Thursday that a man was charged with starting last year’s Rim fire. Federal prosecutors made the announcement, saying that a 32-year old man from Columbia, California was behind the fire that consumed more than 250,000 acres exactly one year ago.
The man charged is named Keith Matthew Emerald and he was indicted with four counts, it was announced by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the city of Sacramento. In addition to being charged with arson, the man was also charged with lying to a federal agent, as he denied having set the fire.
The court documents that were filed in 2013 were unsealed yesterday to reveal details of the case. Apparently, Emerald admitted to starting a campfire and that it got out of control only to recant his confession, saying that he was pressured into admitting to starting the fire.
The man was given notice to appear in court and was not arrested. Lauren Horwood, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office has not revealed when he will be arraigned. When this happens, it will happen in a federal court in Fresno.
There have been some attempts to reach Emerald or his family, but they have been unsuccessful.
Randy Moore, Pacific Southwest regional forester for the U.S. Forest Service has said in a statement that the impacts of the Rim fires on the public lands will continue for year to come:
This devastating fire caused risk to firefighters, citizens and private property, and over $125 million were spent in fire suppression costs on this beautiful and popular landscape. We’re still dealing with hazardous trees and erosion.
The fire was one of the biggest fires that California has seen recently. It burned across Yosemite National Park, private lands and parts of the forest and it took out campsites, mature timber and young plantations from past fires.
Executive director of the Toulumne County, California, revealed that:
What surprises me still is how long it took for this whole process to take place. There are a lot of unanswered questions, and hopefully we will get some better answers.
Benjamin Wagner, U.S. Attorney commended the U.S. Forest Service agents:
The Rim fire was one of the largest in California history and caused tremendous economic and environmental harm. While those harms cannot be undone, today we have brought criminal charges relating to the cause of that fire.
Emerald could face up to five years in federal prison and a quarter of a million dollar fine for each of his four counts.