Father, son arrested, accused of arson in starting Caldor Fire

Staff Report

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A father and son who are accused of arson in connection with the Caldor Fire that burned more than 200,000 acres in El Dorado and Amador counties were arrested Wednesday, Dec. 8.

Somerset resident David Scott Smith, 66, and Sacramento resident Travis Shane Smith, 33, are charged with reckless arson that caused inhabited properties to burn and resulted in great bodily harm to multiple victims, according to a press release from the El Dorado County Attorney’s Office.

David Scott Smith

The suspects were arrested on a Ramey warrant, which is issued before criminal charges are filed, the press release states.

The District Attorney’s Office was the arresting agency on the case, according to assistant to the District Attorney Savannah Broddrick.

The two were booked into the El Dorado County Jail in Placerville with bail set at $1 million each. They will be arraigned no later than Friday afternoon in Department 7 of El Dorado County Superior Court if the court decides to keep the case in the county, according to Broddrick.

Travis Shane Smith

Mark Reichel, the attorney for both men, said they were arrested Wednesday afternoon and that reckless arson means starting a blaze by accident but “to such a degree that it was considered reckless.”

Authorities allege they caused homes to burn and people to be seriously injured in the fire that began in August. The Caldor Fire scorched more than 346 square miles and destroyed more than 1,000 homes and other buildings while crossing a mostly remote forested area of seasonal cabins.

El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson provided few details about the arrest of the Smiths, citing the investigation.

Reichel said: “They are absolutely 100% innocent.”

He added the he did not know details of the accusation, such as how authorities allege the fire was set.

According to Reichel, Travis Smith is an electrician and was with his father near where the fire started. The son called 911 to report seeing flames.

The son made several 911 calls because the calls kept dropping in the rugged area, and both men also warned campers about the fire, Reichel said.

“Neither one has ever been in trouble with the law in their life. They’re very law-abiding people,” he said.

The pair have a scheduled court appearance on Friday, Reichel said.

“There has been no evidence submitted into a court subject to my cross-examination … that proves any of the prosecution’s evidence yet. So I urge everyone to wait and hear what really happened before they form any opinions,” Reichel added.

The DA’s Office worked with the U.S. Forest Service, Cal Fire, the California Department of Justice and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Crime Lab to investigate the cause of the Caldor Fire, states the press release.

The Mountain Democrat and Associated Press contributed to this story.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around the Lake Tahoe Basin and beyond make the Tahoe Tribune's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.