Man charged with starting California's 2013 Rim Fire

By Kyle Johnson,

A Tuolumne County resident was charged by a federal grand jury on four counts over the 2013 Rim Fire, which stands as California's third ever largest fire.

Keith Matthew Emerald has been charged with kindling the fire and for lying to federal agents about starting the fire, KCRA reports. He also is charged with violating a fire restriction and leaving a fire unattended.

The fire lasted nine weeks and managed to burn more than 250,000 acres in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest before being extinguished, according to KQED.

In August 2013 the 32-year-old hunter allegedly started a fire during a fire ban and it grew beyond his control. Emerald eventually needed to be rescued by helicopter and denied setting the fire.

"The Rim Fire was one of the largest in California history and caused tremendous economic and environmental harm," U.S. Attorney Benjamin R. Wagner said. "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."

Emerald will likely be tried in federal court in Fresno. The fire restriction and unattended fire count each come with a six month maximum jail sentence and $5,000 fine, while the more serious charges of lying to federal agents and setting the fire come with a five year sentence and $250,000 fine.

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