Serial Arsonist Admits To Setting Wildfires In California Forest, Officials Say

A tractor-trailer drives next to the Delta Fire burning on Interstate 5 near Shasta-Trinity National Forest, Calif. (Ben Newburn/U.S. Forest Service via Associated Press)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eric Michael Smith, 41, of Redding, pleaded guilty today to being a serial arsonist in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, Smith at least 11 fires on land in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest between June 2019 and July 2020. Smith used hard to detect ignition sources, such as cigarette lighters and handheld torches, to ignite these fires in remote locations of the national forest. Many of the fires Smith admitted to setting ignited in the early morning hours, making detection and firefighting by authorities potentially more challenging. One of the fires set by Smith in July 2020 burned so close to Interstate 5 near Turntable Bay Road that first responders closed a portion of the highway to prevent the blaze from burning numerous vehicles and residences on the other side of the interstate.

Smith was arrested in late July 2020.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Stefanki is prosecuting the case.


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