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    United States Attorney's Office
    Central District of California

    Thom Mrozek
    Public Affairs Officer

    (213) 894-6947
    thom.mrozek@usdoj.gov



    Return to the 2008 Press Release Index
    Release No. 08-147

    November 17, 2008

    TRANSIENT WHO STARTED ‘DAY FIRE’ THAT BURNED 162,000 ACRES SENTENCED TO NEARLY FOUR YEARS IN PRISON

    A transient who started the 2006 Day Fire that burned more than 162,000 acres – most of which was in the Los Padres National Forest – and cost authorities more than $100 million in fire suppression costs was sentenced today to 45 months in federal prison.

    Steven Emory Butcher, 49, was convicted in February of starting the one-month-long Day Fire by burning debris at his campsite in Piru Canyon. The federal jury that convicted him deliberated for only two hours before also finding him guilty of causing the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned approximately 70 acres.

    “If I would have been on the jury, I would have found myself guilty too,” Butcher told United States District Judge Valerie Baker Fairbank.

    In addition to the nearly four-year sentence, Judge Fairbank ordered Butcher to pay $101,652,000 in restitution to the Los Padres National Forest.

    Butcher was found guilty of two felonies – two counts of willfully setting on fire debris in the Los Padres National Forest. He was also found guilty of three misdemeanors – allowing a fire to escape from his control, causing the Ellis Fire; violating National Forest restrictions by building a fire, which caused the Day Fire; and smoking in the Los Padres National Forest.

    The Day Fire was started on September 4, 2006, on the Ojai Ranger District within a remote portion of Piru Canyon in the Sespe Wilderness area of the Los Padres National Forest, a place where Butcher had long maintained a camp that he lived in for part of the year. The fire burned until October 2, 2006, causing 18 injuries and the destruction of 11 structures.

    The Ellis Fire was started on October 4, 2002, in the Los Padres National Forest, approximately two miles southeast of the later origin of the Day Fire.

    This case was investigated by special agents with the United States Forest Service.

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    Release No. 08-146
    Return to the 2008 Press Release Index