A grand jury this week indicted the man who accidentally started last summer’s Rim Fire on four federal charges.
Filed Thursday with U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, the indictment charges Keith Matthew Emerald, 32, with setting timber afire, leaving a fire unattended and unextinguished, violating a fire restriction and making a false statement to a government agency (a felony).
Emerald, a bow hunter from Tuolomne County, is accused of lighting a camp fire on Aug. 17 outside of a developed recreational area of Stanislaus National Forest – where temporary fire restrictions were in effect due to the severe fire hazard from extremely dry conditions.
Emerald was reportedly on a solo deer hunting trip in the Clavey River drainage of the Stanislaus National Forest and wanted to heat up some soup.
The grand jury decided Emerald should have known better.
The defendant, according to the indictment, “did kindle a fire … under weather and environment conditions such that defendant knew or reasonably should have known that there was a great risk that the fire would escape his control …”
And it did.
An ember from the fire was carried by the wind to dry vegetation, sparking a rapidly growing blaze.
The result was the 250,000-acre Rim Fire that swept through the forest and Yosemite National Park for nine weeks last August, costing $127 million.
The fire also destroyed 11 homes and other outbuildings.
Emerald has not been arrested. He is expected to be arraigned in district court next week. If convicted, Emerald faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000.