Man who started King Fire gets 20 years in prison, $60 million fine
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A man who originally pleaded not guilty to starting the devastating King Fire that burned two years ago just a few miles from Lake Tahoe has admitted he ignited the blaze.
Wayne Allen Huntsman, 39, pleaded guilty Friday to three counts of felony arson in the September 2014 King Fire.
El Dorado County Superior Court Judge Daniel Proud sentenced Huntsman to 20 years in prison and ordered him to pay $60 million in restitution.
Huntsman reportedly made a selfie video of himself during the fire that District Attorney Vern Pierson says was an attempt to portray himself as a hero.
“As is so often the case, the successful investigation and conclusion of this case is the result of teamwork including the public, numerous agencies and individuals,” Vern Pierson said Friday.
Over the course of 27 days, the King Fire burned 12 homes, 68 other structures and more than 150 square miles of land in the Sierra Nevada.
Thousands of regional firefighters, including those from districts at Lake Tahoe and Truckee, helped battle the fire that started Sept. 13, 2014, in Pollock Pines, Calif..
The blaze stoked fears among Truckee-Tahoe residents as the flames crept closer and closer to the Lake Tahoe Basin.
While the region never was threatened, it did cause regional fire districts to host evacuation-centric town hall meetings to calm fears among worried residents.
It also pumped dangerous levels of smoke into the Tahoe Basin, forcing the closure of schools, and various athletic events and endurance races were canceled — notably, the 2014 Ironman Lake Tahoe race, which officials shut down 2 minutes before start time due to unhealthy air levels.