100-Plus Homes Were Destroyed. Now, an Arrest

Edward Wackerman, 71, is suspected of setting devastating blaze in Mariposa County, California
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 19, 2023 12:50 PM CDT
100-Plus Homes Were Destroyed. Now, an Arrest
Edward Wackerman.   (Mariposa Gazette)

An elderly man who lives near Yosemite National Park has been arrested after a forest fire there last year destroyed more than 125 homes. The AP reports that Edward Wackerman of Mariposa was taken into custody Friday, suspected of setting last summer's Oak Fire that burned nearly 20,000 acres in Mariposa County.

The Los Angeles Times notes that no one was killed in the Northern California blaze, but at least three firefighters were reported to have been injured, thousands of residents were evacuated, and 127 homes (as well as 66 outbuildings) were destroyed, per Cal Fire. The fire began on the afternoon of July 22, near the community of Midpines, and raged on through early August, when 2,000 firefighters were finally able to contain it. The Times notes that the blaze was difficult to battle due to "a combination of heat, low humidity, and parched vegetation."

Wackerman was arrested on suspicion of aggravated arson, arson that caused great bodily injury, and arson that caused damage to an inhabited dwelling, all felonies. The Mariposa Gazette notes that the investigation and arrest were a team effort of Cal Fire, the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office, the FBI, and various other agencies. Officials aren't yet revealing details on how the fire may have been set. Investigators say they'll have more details to offer during a Tuesday news conference. (More forest fire stories.)

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