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Columbia Man Indicted For Starting Rim Fire

Aug 7, 2014

file photo
Credit US Forest Service

The hunter who is alleged to have started the massive Rim Fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park has been indicted by a federal grand jury. 

The four count indictment alleges that Keith Matthew Emerald, 32 of Columbia started a fire and let it grow out of control on August 17, 2013 in the Clavey River Canyon.

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. It was the largest fire ever recorded in the Sierra Nevada and destroyed over 100 buildings.

In a written statement, U.S. Attorney Wagner said the following:
“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. I want to commend the Forest Service agents for their diligent and extensive investigation.”

“The impacts of the Rim Fire on our public lands will continue for years to come,” said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore.  “This devastating fire caused risk to firefighters, citizens and private property, and over 125 million dollars were spent in fire suppression costs on this beautiful and popular landscape.  We’re still dealing with hazardous trees and erosion.” 

“The cooperative work of the criminal investigators from the U.S. Forest Service, Tuolumne County District Attorney's Office, and prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney's Office that lead to the indictment is commendable,” said Scott Harris, U.S. Forest Service special agent in charge of the Pacific Southwest Region. “Through this investigative partnership and support from the community, we have discovered the origin, cause and identified a suspect for the massive Rim Fire.”

This story will be updated.