RENO, Nev. — A father and son were arrested Wednesday in connection with the start of California’s Caldor Fire which burned for more than two months in El Dorado County and threatened the Lake Tahoe area earlier this year.
David Scott Smith, 66 of Somerset, California, and his son, Travis Shane Smith, 32, of Folsom, were arrested for reckless arson, according to a statement from the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office.
The pair were arrested on a Ramey warrant — one issued by a judge before a prosecutor has filed formal charges — following an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office. The El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office was not involved, according to Sgt. Eric Palmberg.
A person is guilty of causing a fire when they recklessly set fire to, burn, or cause the burning of any structure, forest land or property, according to the California Penal Code.
The Smiths’ attorney, Sacramento-based criminal defense attorney Mark Reichel, told USA TODAY that Travis Smith called 911 after spotting the flames, and were in the area where the fire originated. Reichel said he is unaware of what evidence investigators believe links his clients to the start of the fire, but maintained they “definitely were not intentionally setting a fire.”
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“They are 100% innocent of the charges,” said Reichel, adding that the district attorney is expected to file charges shortly.
Reichel said Travis Smith repeatedly called 911, calling back when the call dropped due to poor service.
The Caldor Fire started Aug. 14 start near Pollock Pines, midway between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe. It burned more than 221,000 acres as it traveled more than 40 miles toward Tahoe.
It forced roughly 50,000 people to evacuate along the Highway 50 corridor and in the Lake Tahoe Basin, including the entire city of South Lake Tahoe.
Nearly 32,000 structures were threatened, 81 were damaged and almost 800 were destroyed. The fire also leveled the town of Grizzly Flats, located about 12 miles east of Somerset, and destroyed hundreds of acres of ski runs at Sierra-at-Tahoe, one of the closest resorts to the Bay Area and Sacramento.
It burned through both Amador and Alpine counties and also threatened Kirkwood Mountain Resort. The fire was fully contained Oct. 21.
Contributing: The Associated Press