Transient’s ‘Day Fire’ Burned 162,000 Acres Of National Forest

LAWFUEL – Legal Newswire – A transient was found guilty today of starting the 2006 Day Fire that burned more than 162,000 acres – most of which was in the Los Padres National Forest – and led to more than $78 million in fire suppression costs.

Steven Emory Butcher, 49, was convicted of starting the one-month-long Day Fire by burning debris at his campsite in Piru Canyon. The federal jury the deliberated for two hours also found him guilty of causing the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned approximately 70 acres.

Butcher was found guilty of two felonies – two counts of willfully setting on fire debris in the Los Padres National Forest. He was also found guilty of three misdemeanors – allowing a fire to escape from his control, causing the Ellis Fire; violating National Forest restrictions by building a fire, which caused the Day Fire; and smoking in the Los Padres National Forest.

The five counts cumulatively carry a statutory maximum sentence of 11½ years in federal prison. United States District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank, who presided over the two-week trial, has not yet scheduled a sentencing date.

The Day Fire was started on September 4, 2006, on the Ojai Ranger District within a remote portion of Piru Canyon in the Sespe Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest, a place where Butcher had long maintained a camp that he lived in for part of the year. The fire burned until October 2, 2006, causing 18 injuries and the destruction of 11 structures.

The Ellis Fire was started on October 4, 2002, in the Los Padres National Forest, approximately two miles southeast of the later origin of the Day Fire.

This case was investigated by special agents with the United States Forest Service.

CONTACT: Assistant United States Attorney Joseph O. Johns

Chief, Public Integrity and Environmental Crimes Section

(213) 894-4536 or

Mobile: (805) 905-9454

Assistant United States Attorney Sharon K. McCaslin

Public Integrity and Environmental Crimes Section

(213) 894-6874

Release No. 08-016

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