District Attorney Vern Pierson announces the felony convictions of Wayne Allen Huntsman, the arsonist responsible for the 97,000 acre King Fire. Today, the Defendant pled guilty to three counts of Arson to Forest Land, admitted multiple enhancements for causing injury to firefighters and destruction of multiple structures, was ordered to pay over $60,000,000 in victim restitution, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
The fast-moving fire started Sept. 13, 2014 in Pollock Pines and exploded overnight, burning through the El Dorado National Forest and forcing thousands to flee their homes. Over 27 days, the fire destroyed over 97,000 acres of wild land, at least a dozen residences and numerous out buildings, and caused millions of dollars in damages.
In the minutes after the ignition of the fire, Lars Knutsen and Stephen and Sheila Mancuso observed unusual behavior on the part of Huntsman and had the presence of mind to convey those observations to arson investigators. As result of their assistance and other members of the public, Cal Fire Investigators and El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office Investigators arrested Huntsman on Sept. 17, 2014.
“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. In particular, I want to acknowledge Assistant District Attorney James Clinchard, Cal Fire Captain Tom Oldag and District Attorney Investigators Dave Stevenson and Richard Pesce,” stated Vern Pierson. The attached video details some of the circumstances leading to this outcome including the “selfie” video made by Huntsman, a former inmate firefighter who sought to portray himself as a hero.
Thanks to the quick actions of arson investigators and neighbors who saw something and said something, Huntsman was taken into custody even while the forest fire raged on. Fortunately, due to the tremendous efforts by firefighters, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Deputies and numerous other first responders, the King Fire did not take any lives.
Today, the Honorable Judge Daniel Proud sentenced Wayne Allen Huntsman to the maximum allowable sentence for the three counts alleged in the Grand Jury Indictment.