TULARE COUNTY — District Attorney Tim Ward has announced criminal charges against four individuals for starting the Pier Fire by burning a stolen car.
The Pier Fire charred nearly 37,000 acres east of Springville, Calif., from Aug. 29 to Sept 24.
Isiac Renteria, 19, Richard Renteria, 21, Osvaldo Esparza-Guerrero, 20, and Breane Ojeda, 21, were arrested on Oct. 24. All are from Visalia. Isaic Renteria was arrested in Sacramento.
Each is charged with aggravated arson, two counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, and two counts of unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle.
Isaic Renteria, Richard Renteria, and Breane Ojeda are each charged with an additional count of unlawful driving or taking of a vehicle.
Special allegations that multiple structures were burned and that an accelerant was used are attached to the arson and conspiracy charges.
If convicted on all counts, the defendants each face a maximum of life in prison.
It is alleged that in the early morning hours of Aug. 29, the defendants drove a Dodge Challenger stolen from National Car Rental to a remote location near Highway 190 on the Sequoia National Forest.
There they used gasoline as an accelerant and attempted to destroy the car by setting it on fire. This ignited the blaze that became known as the Pier Fire, which burned 36,566 acres and caused an estimated $40 million in damages and costs.
The Pier Fire was declared contained on Sept. 24. At its height, about 2,000 local, state and federal fire personal were assigned to the incident.