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Transient Found Guilty of Starting Wildfire

Posted: February 16, 2008 2:52 a.m.
Updated: April 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
A transient man was found guilty in a federal court on Friday of starting the 2006 Day Fire that burned more than 162,000 acres in and around the Los Padres National Forest, the U.S. Attorney's office announced.

Steven Emory Butcher, 49, was convicted of starting the one-month fire by burning debris at a campsite in Piru Canyon. More than $78 million in suppression costs were incurred while fighting the blaze, the cause of which was investigated by special agents with the U.S. Forest Service.

The Day Fire started on Sept. 4, 2006, within a remote portion of Piru Canyon in the Sespe Wilderness area of the forest. Butcher had long maintained a camp there, where he lived part of the year.

The fire burned until Oct. 2, and caused 18 injuries and the destruction of 11 structures.

Butcher, who was also found guilty of starting a smaller fire in 2002, faced two felony and three misdemeanor counts. The felony charges were for willfully setting debris on fire, and the misdemeanor charges were for allowing a fire to escape his control, building a fire, and smoking. Building a fire violates National Forest restrictions, and smoking is not allowed in the Los Padres National Forest.

The five counts cumulatively carry a statutory maximum sentence of 11 1/2 years in federal prison. The trial judge has not yet set a sentencing date.

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