News

Father and son arrested in connection to starting California’s 15th largest wildfire

On Wednesday, father and son were arrested after being suspected of starting a large California wildfire that destroyed many houses and displaced tens of thousands of people.

The two were accused by authorities of reckless arson in a warrant issued prior to formal charges being filed.

David Scott Smith, 66, and his son Travis Shane Smith, 32, were accused with the arson that sparked a California wildfire that forced tens of thousands of people to flee to the surrounding Lake Tahoe communities earlier this year. The attorney for both men, mark Reichel, said that while they were arrested Wednesday afternoon, reckless arson means starting a fire accidentally but “to such a degree that it was considered reckless.” 

Authorities say the pair caused houses to burn and people to be seriously injured in the blaze that began in August. The Caldor fire, which destroyed more than 1,000 houses and other buildings, burned over 346 square miles from east of Sacramento to the Nevada border.

It was one of only two large fires last summer that for the first time crossed the Sierra Nevada range. Reichel said Travis is an electrician and was the one to call 911 to report seeing flames. He made several calls to the emergency number because the calls kept failing in the rugged area, but Reichel added that both men warned campers about the fire.

Reichel said, “They are absolutely 100% innocent,” when speaking about his clients. “Neither one has ever been in trouble with the law in their life. They’re very law abiding people.”

He continued, “There has been no evidence submitted into a court subject to my cross examination … that proves any of the prosecution’s evidence yet. So I urge everyone to wait and hear what really happened before they form any opinions.” The pair are set to appear before a court on Friday.

ARTICLE: ELIZABETH HERTZBERG

MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE

PHOTO CREDITS: LA TIMES

Leave a Reply