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Will the Hunter Responsible for Sparking the Rim Fire Be Charged?

TULOUMNE COUNTY—

It’s the fourth largest wildfire in California history; already 111 structures have been destroyed. The cost of the Rim Fire is sitting at $80 million – and it’s 80% contained.

“…highly suspect it might have been a marijuana grow type thing,” said Twain Harte Fire Chief Todd McNeal. McNeal made this statement at a town hall meeting, the video was uploaded to YouTube.

Now, there’s new information from the U.S. Forest Service and the Tuolumne County District Attorney saying all of this was the result of a hunter’s illegal campfire.

“94% of the wildfires that Cal Fire responds to are caused somehow by humans,” said Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire’s Public Information Officer.

Investigators won’t release the hunter’s name, but we do know the damage he caused is extensive.

The big question, will this hunter be forced to pay or even punished?

“We do evaluate how much a person can pay, we want to be able to get the maximum amount the state can,” said Berlant.

The Cedar Fire sparked in October 2003 is the state’s largest wildfire to date. A hunter accidentally started it in San Diego County – 14 people died and more than 273,000 acres were charred.

Sergio Martinez had to do hundreds of hours of community service, probation, and had to paid $9,000 in restitution.

Then there was a fire in the Inyo National Forest. It charred more than 7,500 acres. It happened in 2006, after a couple’s fire-pit caused $1 million in damages. Jonathan and Penny Bourne were the couple forced to pay that amount in restitution.

“Since we’ve had the Civil Cost Recovery Program, we’ve recovered $90 million dollars from fires that should’ve been prevented,” said Berlant.

In some cases, there are criminal charges even if the fire was accidental but could’ve been prevented. The restitution amount is paid based on how much someone can afford.