The deer hunter charged with setting the Rim fire in 2013 -- one the largest in California's history -- ignored temporary restrictions put in place for national forest land and kindled a fire that spread beyond his control, federal prosecutors allege.
The fire, which started Aug. 17, 2013, in a remote area of the Stanislaus National Forest, would go on to burn more than 250,000 acres to become the state's third largest wildfire, devouring chaparral and oak as it chewed through the western border of Yosemite.
In a signed affidavit, Emerald wrote that he used pine needles, twigs and a lighter to start his campfire.
"After cooking a meal and burning the rest of my trash, some embers were blown up the hill and caught the brush on fire," he wrote. "The terrain was almost vertical, so I ... couldn't put it out."
In earlier interviews with investigators, however, Emerald had blamed a rockslide or possibly an illegal marijuana grow.
But during a third interview in early September, officials said, Emerald admitted that he was afraid of retaliation from the community and asked investigators if his name could be kept out of the media "until snow falls." (Authorities announced in early September that the fire was sparked by a hunter's illegal campfire, but did not release Emerald's name until Thursday.)
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