Frustration grows over Rim Fire inaction

By Alex MacLean, The Union Democrat

Tuolumne County law enforcement and government leaders continue to be frustrated by the lack of action and information from federal prosecutors investigating a man suspected of starting 2013's historic Rim Fire.

Official word from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Fresno is: "It's still an active investigation."

Lauren Horwood, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Sacramento, added only that the case is "complex" and indicates it is being investigated by a federal grand jury. Hence, the suspect remains uncharged and free.

The suspect, according to federal officials, is a hunter who lost control of a campfire. Little other information has been released, fueling a firestorm of rumors about the cause.

This much is certain: The Rim Fire started on Aug. 17 in a remote area of the Stanislaus National Forest, near the confluence of the Tuolumne and Clavey rivers, about 20 miles east of Sonora. It burned for more than a month and consumed 402 square miles, or about 257,000 acres. It was the third largest recorded wildfire in California history.

Firefighting costs alone totaled more than $127 million. That doesn't include the losses suffered by property owners whose land and structures burned, and the businesses that lost a chunk of the tourism high season.

Rumors about who, or what, started the fire have circulated since Aug. 23, when a local fire chief speculated that an illegal marijuana plantation might have been linked to the blaze.

The U.S. Forest Service attempted to quash the rumor by releasing a few details: That the actual cause was a hunter's illegal campfire.

The attorneys themselves have declined to make statements directly to the press, and Horwood has been unable to provide more information about the exact status of the case.

"There are complexities to it," Horwood said. "They're looking over evidence, in discussions with investigators and determining which way to go from here.

"In a case like this, you don't want to go too fast before you have all the information. It's kind of the way a lot of federal cases are handled. It's a lot slower than how district attorneys handle it sometimes."

For the full story, see the June 20, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

The Union Democrat
This image is copyrighted.

Reach all of Sonora, Calaveras County, Tuolumne, Angels Camp, Twain Harte, & Jamestown with your items to sell.

Ads appear Online and in Print

View Classifieds Place an Ad

Connect with The Union Democrat

Union Democrat Newsstand

Sunday December 11, 2016

Read digital interactive editions of our publications

Read Today's Edition Take A Tour

More Publications by The Union Democrat

View All Publications
Racism alive in Tuolumne County


Dawn Warfield was going out for coffee about 9:30 a.m. last Sunday ... more

Cold, lost dog finds shelter in deputy’s vehicle


Holly Britton lay her head on a pillow Tuesday night and said ... more

Streets of Gold Rush towns once lined with gold


This happened in the “Good Old Days,” a beautiful and lavishly prosperous ... more

Sonora High teachers, staff could see cuts


A task force assigned to review the precarious financial situation facing the ... more