Rim Fire suspect named and charged

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat /

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Fresno charged Tuolumne County resident Keith Matthew Emerald with a four-count indictment for starting the 2013 Rim Fire.

Emerald, 32, of Columbia, is charged with felony setting timber afire and lying to government agents about it and misdemeanor leaving a fire unattended and violating a fire restriction.

The indictment alleged that on Aug. 17, 2013, Emerald kindled a fire in the Stanislaus National Forest and allowed the fire to spread beyond his control. At the time, temporary fire restrictions were in place that prohibited fires.

Emerald was rescued by helicopter from the extremely remote Clavey River Canyon with bow hunting equipment. He allegedly lied about starting the fire.

He could face five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each setting timber afire and giving false statements to a government agency. Leaving a fire unattended and violating a fire restriction each carry a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Any sentence would be determined at the discretion of the court and could vary, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Emerald is expected in federal court soon.

Read the indictment here:

Read the entire search warrant here:

See the Weekend edition of The Union Democrat on Friday for the full story.

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The Union Democrat
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