The Dolan Fire that killed a firefighter and 12 California condors was started intentionally, and the 31-year-old illegal marijuana grower who started it was found guilty of arson on Thursday.
You will surely recall the orange sky day of September 2020, the eerie result of a number of California wildfires converging to change the atmospheric hue. One of those fires was the Dolan Fire near Big Sur, which destroyed 10 homes and nearly 125,000 acres, took the life of one firefighter and 12 California condors, and which officials quickly realized was a bizarre intentional arson.
The man who set that fire, 31-year-old Ivan Gomez, has been found guilty of arson according to KPIX. Monterey County Judge Pamela Butler also convicted Gomez for throwing rocks at vehicles, cruelty to animals for the condor deaths, and for growing illegal cannabis in the Los Padres National Forest.
The fire started where Gomez was growing his plants on national forest grounds. When fire officials first noticed a wildfire, it was simultaneous to when police received a call about a man throwing rocks at vehicles on Highway 1.
“The evidence showed the defendant would have had time to start the fire around 5 p.m. and make it to the Lime Creek area where he was confronted at 8:15 pm,” Monterey County prosecutors said, according to KRON4. “Firefighters testified that no other individuals were found in this area and that the defendant was shirtless, sweating and was found with multiple lighters.”
The lives of a firefighter and a couple dozen endangered consors were lost, but this could have been worse. “The fire nearly cost the lives of 14 firefighters who were trying to defend their fire station but were overrun by flames and had to deploy emergency shelters,” KPIX reports. “Three were hospitalized with burns and smoke inhalation, including a fire captain who was seriously injured.”
Gomez faces up to 24 years in prison, and will be sentenced on May 18.
Image: U.S. Forest Service-Los Padres National Forest