The Rim Fire burns near Yosemite National Park in Buck Meadows, Calif. on Aug. 24, 2013.
Max Whittaker—Reuters
August 7, 2014 8:02 PM EDT

Authorities have charged a man with starting California’s third largest wildfire ever. The 2013 fire spread across 400 sq. mi. of Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

A grand jury returned a four-count indictment against Keith Matthew Emerald on Thursday, for allegedly starting the blaze on Aug. 17, 2013, the Associated Press reports. Investigators say Emerald has vacillated between admitting to starting the fire as he was hunting deer by burning trash from his backpack and then denying that he had done so.

The burning went on for two months and cost $125 million to combat. Emerald was picked up by a rescue helicopter an hour after the fire began.

No court date for Emerald’s arraignment has been set.


Write to Eliana Dockterman at

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