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Press Release

Redding Man Sentenced for Serial Arsons in Shasta-Trinity National Forest

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of California

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Eric Michael Smith, 41, of Redding, was sentenced today to two years and six months in prison and ordered to pay $19,071 in restitution to the U.S. Forest Service for being a serial arsonist in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert announced.

According to court documents, between June 2019 and July 2020, Smith set no less than 11 fires on national forest land. Smith also admitted to abandoning at least 11 campfires on national forest land during this same general period.

Smith used virtually undetectable ignition sources, such as cigarette lighters and handheld torches, to start his wildfires in remote locations of the national forest. Many of the fires Smith admitted to setting began in the early morning hours of the day, making detection and firefighting by authorities potentially more challenging. One of the fires set by Smith in July 2020 burned so close to Interstate 5 near Turntable Bay Road that first responders closed a portion of the highway to prevent the blaze from burning numerous vehicles and residences on the other side of the interstate.

Smith was arrested in late July 2020, following an extensive investigation in which law enforcement agents installed a tracking device on his vehicle to monitor his movements and surveilled him for days.

This case was the product of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Assistant U.S. Attorney Sam Stefanki prosecuted the case.

Updated February 13, 2023