Caldor Fire Arrest Shenanigans

The Caldor Fire was one of California’s recent big fires. It threatened the famous resort community of Lake Tahoe and among other damages, burned the Kirkwood ski resort where I personally used to go cross-country skiing. I was naturally interested when two men were arrested for arson. It’s no secret that waves of college-trained arsonists have been lighting my state ablaze.

But the case is looking… odd.

Father and son are arrested on suspicion of starting devastating Caldor wildfire that destroyed homes forcing thousands to flee Lake Tahoe and scorching 346sq-miles of land

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By Rachel Bunyan, 8 December 2021

A father and son were arrested Wednesday on suspicion of starting the devastating Caldor wildfire that destroyed many homes and forced tens of thousands of people to flee Lake Tahoe communities earlier this year, authorities said.

The guy had a father in his life? Could still be a Marxist vandal but not common.

David Scott Smith, 66, and his son, Travis Shane Smith, 32, are accused of reckless arson in a warrant issued before formal charges are filed, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office said.

Now I’m smelling a Narrative for sure. Per Breitbart, it was a Ramey warrant, which is issued by a judge upon probable cause provided by a police officer with no involvement from a grand jury or district attorney. The typical use of such a warrant is for weekend/holiday arrests when the DA’s office is closed.

But this arrest happened on a Wednesday? That means somebody did an end run around the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office.

The district attorney’s office said [on Twitter] the case was developed with the U.S. Forest Service, California´s firefighting agency and the California Department of Justice, with help from the Sacramento County District Attorney´s crime lab.

Typically, a DA will hog the credit for any high-profile arrest such as large-scale arson. But here, the first thing the DA said… even before charges… is all the other agencies who’ve been involved with the case.


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.’

So, not arson at all. While criminal charges for involuntary crimes can be appropriate… a recent post  discussed both involuntary manslaughter and Alec Baldwin… these two men are accused of accidentally starting a fire then trying to put it out, and were arrested without the typical process of law. Not to say ‘without the due process of law’.

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

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

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.

That’ll be a difficult criminal case to prosecute. A civil case could wreck them because accidents can still impute financial liabilities… but there’s no criminal intent here, if they alerted authorities and neighbors right away.

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

The Smiths are not the Pantifa I was looking for.

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

Ramey warrants must have formal charges applied within 48 hours of the arrest.

‘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.

Fair enough. *A few days pass*

Father, son plead not guilty to starting Caldor Fire

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By AP, 10 December 2021

PLACERVILLE — A father and son charged with starting a massive California wildfire that destroyed many homes and forced tens of thousands of people to flee Lake Tahoe communities earlier this year pleaded not guilty in court Friday.

The El Dorado County prosecutor’s office charged David Scott Smith, 66, and Travis Shane Smith, 32, with reckless arson. The office also charged the son with illegal conversion or manufacture of a machine gun and both men of illegal possession of a firearm silencer.

I was not expecting to see firearm charges.

The defendants pleaded not guilty to all charges, said Emily Idleman, assistant to the chief of investigations in the district attorney’s office.

The men were arrested Wednesday and remain in El Dorado County Jail in lieu of $1 million bail each. A bail reduction hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Had they been accused of murder, bail would have been zero. /sarc

The criminal complaints do not specify how the machine gun and silencer tie into the Caldor Fire and the DA’s office has not offered an explanation.

The complaints said both men illegally possessed a firearm silencer between Aug. 11 and Sept. 23 and that Travis Smith converted or manufactured a machine gun between Aug. 9 and Aug. 14.

The Caldor Fire’s official start date is August 14. The implication would be that they were trying out a silenced, homemade firearm that somehow triggered the fire.

Note that this being California, “machine gun” can mean anything from an A-10’s GAU-8 to a bolt-action with a bump stock. There’s no reason to put a silencer on something fully automatic… you just can’t silence that much explosives. Silencers don’t actually make things silent at the best of times.

So, we’re probably talking about an AR with a homemade silencer. That could get hot enough to spark a fire but one notices that 1. the DA office isn’t actually saying that and 2. they’re accused of having a silencer for a month after it presumably caught fire and burned down half a forest.

It could be true the arrest is legit but I have doubts.

2 thoughts on “Caldor Fire Arrest Shenanigans

  1. That’s exactly what I’m thinking. The sort of person who would negligently start a brushfire with an overheated silencer is not the sort of person who would call 911 and warn the people nearby.


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