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 that burned 80 structures in Northern California.
Wayne Allen Huntsman, 39, pleaded guilty Friday, April 8, 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 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,” 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.
The fire that started Sept. 13, 2014, in Pollock Pines, California, took 300 firefighters and personnel about a month to control.
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.