We all know that California wildfires are a huge problem—and common sense tells us that in fire-prone areas, there are bound to be restrictions on using open flames. In fact, there are plenty of restrictions when there’s wildfire danger.
None of them registered with Wayne Allen Huntsman, though, when he lit a blaze that touched off one of California’s largest wildfires of 2014: the King Fire.
The fire Huntsman started tore through nearly 100,000 acres, destroying at least 12 homes and approximately 100 other buildings, and forcing thousands of residents to evacuate. It spread through the Eldorado National Forest, and it took firefighters and officials 27 days to get it under control.
Huntsman initially pleaded not guilty, but he finally admitted to three counts of arson to forest land. The counts were enhanced because some of the thousands of firefighters battling the flames were injured, and the fire destroyed property, as well.
After lighting the fire and taking a video of himself (in which he says, “Listen, I got fire all around me. I’m stuck in the middle, babe”), Huntsman fled the scene and ran into a kind stranger who gave him a ride away from the area.
The unwitting getaway driver made a recording of the video and gave it to investigators, which ultimately led to Huntsman’s arrest just days after he set off the King Fire.
In court, after entering a guilty plea, Huntsman was sentenced to 20 years in prison and was fined $60 million in restitution to the victims.
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