SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eric Michael Smith, 38, of Redding, has been charged with setting fire to lands owned by the United States, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced.
According to court documents, between June 23, and July 29, 2020, Smith allegedly set four wildland fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest within Shasta County. He is alleged to have used a virtually untraceable cigarette lighter or pen torch to light the fires. One of these fires started near Turntable Bay and required the temporary closure of lanes on Interstate 5 while firefighters suppressed the blaze. Two other fires started along Gilman Road, in the general area where the devastating Hirz Fire began during the summer of 2018. A fourth fire was started in the area of Jones Valley.
“This investigation exemplifies the dedication of the men and women in the United States Department of Agriculture, Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations to the mission of protecting our public lands,” said Don Hoang, Special Agent in Charge, Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations, Pacific Southwest Region. “With the apprehension of this arsonist who was responsible for setting multiple fires, our officers protected our national forests from critical environmental and wildlife habitat loss, reducing the danger to our local communities, including firefighters on the frontline, especially in a year dominated by large wildfires during a pandemic. This showcases our office’s priority of bringing to justice those who wish harm to our communities and our public lands.”
This case is the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection with support from the Shasta County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Samuel Stefanki is prosecuting the case.
If convicted, Smith faces a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Any sentence, however, would be determined at the discretion of the court after consideration of any applicable statutory factors and the Federal Sentencing Guidelines, which take into account a number of variables. The charges are only allegations; the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.