Monday, September 26, 2022

A father and son have been arrested for a major fire that threatened Lake Tahoe

SAKRAMENTO, California (AP) – A father and son were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of starting a major fire that destroyed many homes in California and forced tens of thousands of people to leave communities on Lake Tahoe earlier this year.

David Scott Smith, 66, and his son, Travis Shane Smith, 32, are charged with reckless arson under a warrant issued prior to the indictment, the El Dorado County prosecutor’s office said.

Mark Rachel, a lawyer for the two men, said they were arrested Wednesday afternoon and that careless arson meant the accidental start of the fire, but “to such an extent that it was considered reckless.”

Officials claim the fire, which started in August, burned homes and seriously injured people. The Caldor fire burned more than 346 square miles (897 square miles) from Sacramento to the eastern border of Nevada, threatening ski resorts and other popular resorts.

The fire destroyed more than 1,000 homes and other buildings, mostly seasonal cabins in the long woods.

The fire crossed three northern counties, destroyed much of the small community of Grizzly Flats, and forced tens of thousands of people to evacuate the resort town of South Lake Taho before it was closed in October. Five people were injured.

On August 29, 2021, in the Eldorado National Forest in California, pipes in residential areas flattened by the Caldor Flame along Highway 50 are visible in a long camera. A father and son have been arrested on suspicion of starting a major fire in California. Tens of thousands of people were forced to flee the Lake Tahoe area earlier this year, officials said Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021. (AP Photo / Noah Berger, File)

It was one of two major wildfires that crossed the Sierra Nevada mountains for the first time in modern history last summer.

El Dorado County Attorney Vern Pierson provided little information about Smith’s arrest, citing an investigation.

“They are absolutely 100% innocent,” Rachel, a male lawyer, said.

Rachel said she did not know the details of the indictment, for example, officials claim how the fire was set.

He said Travis Smith was with the electrician and his father at the scene of the fire. His son called 911 and reported seeing the flames, Rachel said.

The boy made several calls to 911 as calls dropped in the rough area and both alerted camps to the fire, Rachel said.

“No one has ever had a problem with the law in their life. They are very law-abiding people, ”he said.

The couple is scheduled to appear in court on Friday, Rachel said.

“I have not yet been presented with any evidence to substantiate the allegations,” he said. So I urge everyone to wait and hear what happened before forming any opinion, ”Rachel added.

The district attorney’s office said the case was developed with the help of the U.S. Forest Service, the California Fire Agency and the California Department of Justice’s Sacramento County Attorney’s Criminal Laboratory.

Associated Press writer Robert Jablon contributed from Los Angeles.

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