Dec 9, 2021 - Energy & Environment

California father and son accused of "reckless arson" in Calder Fire

Firefighters battle battle the Caldor fire along highway 89 west of Lake Tahoe Thursday.
Firefighters at the Caldor Fire along Highway 89 west of Lake Tahoe, California, in September. Photo: Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

California officials said they arrested a father and son Wednesday on suspicion of starting the Caldor Fire, which threatened the Lake Tahoe area as it burned for over two months earlier this year. They deny any wrongdoing.

Why it matters: The wildfire was the 15th-biggest ever recorded in California, razing more than 1,000 structures, forcing thousands to evacuate and injuring five people as it burned across nearly 222,000 acres of land in El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties.

Driving the news: David Scott Smith, 66 of Somerset, California, and his son, Travis Shane Smith, 32, of Folsom, were arrested on Ramey warrants, issued by a judge ahead of prosecutors filing formal charges, per a statement from the El Dorado County District Attorney.

  • They're accused of "'reckless arson,' which caused inhabited properties to burn and resulted in great bodily injury to multiple victims," according to the DA

What they're saying: Mark Reichel, a Sacramento-based lawyer representing the Smiths, told NBC News his clients were each facing a charge that was "accidental but reckless" and not intentional, but he said they're entirely innocent.

  • Reichel told the New York Times the men had contacted 911 after seeing the fire during a visit to the Eldorado National Forest and had warned others in the area about the blaze.

What to watch: The suspects are being held in the El Dorado County Jail with bail set at $1 million each, and they're due to be arraigned by Friday, CBS Sacramento reports.

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