The U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations unit and the Tuolumne County District Attorney's office say they've discovered that the Rim Fire started when a hunter allowed a campfire to escape.
Despite speculation by one local law enforcement officer that an illegal marijuana grow might have been involved, the investigators say that does not appear to be the case. The Forest Service says there is no indication that the hunter was involved with illegal marijuana cultivation and there were no marijuna grow sites near the origin of the fire.
Ray Mooney with the U.S. Forest Service says the fire was illegal.
"Fire restrictions on the forest at the time meant that no campfires were allowed outside of developed campgrounds," says Mooney. "So, any fire whether it's in a fire pit or elsewhere aren't allowed on the forest when those fire restrictions are in place." - Ray Mooney, U.S. Forest Service
The Forest Service has spent more than $80 million fighting the fire.
Last year the service recovered $79.5 million in settlement funds from lawsuits following the Sims, Freds and Moonlight fires in California. A man who accidentally started a 53,000 acre fire on national forest land in New Mexico two years ago was ordered to pay more than $2.5 million dollars.
No arrests have been made and the hunter's name has not been released.
California's emergency fund will recover much of the $10 million the state spent fighting the Rim Fire.
Cal Fire says the money will come from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"When we have a fire like the Rim Fire that threatens this amount of structures, the department's eligible to get FEMA reimbursements," says Cal Fire's Daniel Berlant. "That grant was approved, so somewhere around 75 percent of our costs will be reimbursed by FEMA."
Most of the fire was on U.S. Forest Service land.
The Rim Fire started Saturday, August 17 in the Stanislaus National Forest. It has also burned more than 237,000 acres and is 80 percent contained.
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