Valley Public Radio - Live Audio

Bow Hunter Accused Of Starting Rim Fire Pleads Not Guilty

Aug 12, 2014

The blaze engulfed more than 250 thousand acres, costing around $127 million to fight the Rim Fire.
Credit Mike McMillan / US Forest Service

The hunter accused of starting the massive Rim Fire last year in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park surrendered to federal authorities today.

Wearing a white t-shirt and jeans with his wrists and ankles cuffed, Keith Matthew Emerald pleaded not guilty on a four count indictment today in federal court in Fresno.

He turned himself over to U.S. Marshals Service this morning prior to his afternoon arraignment on charges that his illegal campfire grew beyond his control and sparked the largest wildfire recorded in the Sierra Nevada.

Judge Gary Austin says that the 32-year-old could post a $60,000 bond for his release. Judge Austin did set certain conditions for Emerald's release: light no campfires, surrender all firearms, turn in his passport, travel permitted only in California, give a DNA sample and have a third party custodian-- his mother Deborah.

Emerald’s next hearing is set for Oct. 14. He faces a sentence up to 11 years and more than $500,000 in fines.

According to authorities, Emerald was on a solo bow-hunting trip in the area and was rescued by a helicopter approximately an hour after the fire was first reported. 

The fire burned for 70 days, and destroyed over 400 square miles.