Rim Fire suspect pleads not guilty

A 32-year-old deer hunter charged with sparking the massive Rim Fire in August 2013 appeared in federal court Tuesday.

Keith Matthew Emerald of Columbia was arraigned on setting timber on fire and lying to a government agent -- both felonies -- and in violation of a fire restriction order and leaving a fire unattended and un-extinguished -- both misdemeanors.

The Rim Fire blackened some 400 square miles west of and in Yosemite National Park. It took two months to extinguish. The cost was pegged by the U.S. Forest Service at $127 million.

Emerald pleaded not guilty.

The court set the following the conditions for Emerald: do not light any campfires, surrender his passport, surrender all firearms, travel permitted only in California unless prior approval is given, give a DNA sample and have a third party custodian.

Emerald was expected to post $60,000 bail.

If convicted of the charges, Emerald faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison and $510,000 in fines, according to a court spokesperson.

His next court appearance, a pre-trial hearing, was scheduled for Oct. 14 in Fresno federal court.


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