EL DORADO COUNTY, Calif. (KTXL) – A father and son have been arrested and accused of arson in connection with the Caldor Fire, the El Dorado County District Attorneys Office announced Wednesday.
Following a multi-agency investigation, 66-year-old David Scott Smith and his son, 32-year-old Travis Shane Smith, were arrested and charged on suspicion of “reckless arson,” the DA’s office said.
A lawyer for the men told FOX40 they allegedly called 911 and alerted campers of the fire. He added that both men are accused of illegally shooting a weapon.
They each face $1 million and are scheduled for arraignment no later than Friday.
The Caldor Fire began 4 miles south of Grizzly Flats and 2 miles east of Omo Ranch in the Eldorado National Forest on Aug. 14.
It destroyed over 1,000 structures, including more than 770 homes, and scorched more than 221,835 acres as it moved toward South Lake Tahoe.
Houses in Grizzly Flats were reduced to smoldering ash and twisted metal with only chimneys rising above the ruins. A post office and Walt Tyler Elementary School were also destroyed.
The fire was contained on Oct. 21 after nearly 70 days.
According to Cal Fire, 18 people were injured as a result of the fire.
The flames also threatened multiple ski resorts, including Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort where it left chairlifts and trees scorched. The resort still does not know when it will be able to reopen for the coming season, writing on Facebook in October, “Although we have been working nonstop—and will continue to—on plans to reopen the resort, we want to let you know that we are still uncertain as to how much terrain we will be able to open this year.”
When discussing the Caldor and Dixie fires, Cal Fire Chief Thom Porter said that only twice in California history have blazes burned from one side of the Sierra Nevada to the other.
President Joe Biden took an aerial tour of land charred by the Caldor Fire while visiting western states in September.
“These fires are blinking ‘code red’ for our nation. They’re gaining frequency and ferocity,” Biden said. “We know what we have to do.”
Tens of thousands were under evacuation orders throughout multiple counties, including El Dorado, Amador and Alpine counties, as well as communities across the state line in Nevada. City officials in South Lake Tahoe said more than 20,000 residents were evacuated in less than five hours on Aug. 30 due to the fire.
“Perhaps the ultimate takeaway is to realize the fragility of our resources and the vulnerability of the places we love,” said Carol Chaplin, president and CEO of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.
A long stretch of Highway 50 was closed as flames burned north and south of the major roadway.
This story is developing. Check back for updates.