Man Arrested on Suspicion of Starting Northern California Fire that Burned More than 100 Homes

June 19, 2023

MARIPOSA, Calif. (AP) — A 71-year-old man was arrested Friday on suspicion of starting a forest fire that destroyed more than 100 homes last year near Yosemite National Park, California fire authorities said.

Edward Fredrick Wackerman, of Mariposa, was arrested on suspicion of aggravated arson, arson that causes great bodily injury and arson causing damage or destruction of inhabited structures, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, also known as Cal Fire, said in a statement.

It didn’t provide details of what led to the arrest. No charges have been filed.

This photo provided by the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office shows 71-year-old Edward Wackerman of Mariposa.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether Wackerman had an attorney to speak on his behalf.

Wackerman is suspected of starting the Oak Fire in Mariposa County in the Sierra Nevada in July 2022.

The fire injured three firefighters, burned 19,244 acres (30 square miles, 77 square kilometers) of land and destroyed 127 homes and 66 outbuildings, Cal Fire said.

At its height, some 6,000 people were told to flee their homes after the blaze erupted near the community of Midpines.

The fire was one of several devastating blazes that swept through Northern California and other states last year.

The Mill Fire in Siskyou County that began in September 2022 caused two deaths and damaged or destroyed nearly 150 buildings.

On Friday, Cal Fire said investigators determined the Mill Fire was caused by operations at a wood products mill in Weed, California, near the California- Oregon border.

Roseburg Forest Products, of Springfield, Oregon, owner of the wood veneers manufacturing plant, announced last year it had reached a settlement agreement with more than 700 people who filed wrongful death, personal injury and property loss claims.

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The company previously said it was investigating whether the fire was caused by the possible failure of a water-spraying machine used to cool ash at the mill.

California has experienced increasingly larger and deadlier wildfires in recent years as climate change has made the West much warmer and drier over the past 30 years. Scientists have said weather will continue to be more extreme and wildfires more frequent, destructive and unpredictable.

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