MARIPOSA, Calif. (KSEE/KGPE) – The man suspected of starting the Oak Fire back in July of 2022, appeared in Mariposa County Court on Tuesday.
The court is just minutes away from where authorities believe he purposely started that fire that destroyed almost 190 buildings, including 127 homes.
The Mariposa County District Attorney’s Office says they have charged 71-year-old Edward Wackerman with three felony counts of arson that led to the fire burning over 19,000 acres in Mariposa County, and injured three firefighters.
Mariposa County officials are calling the Oak Fire the most devastating fire the county has ever seen. The person authorities believe started this fire, appeared in court, in handcuffs for the first time.
71-year-old Ed Wackerman wearing a prisoner jumpsuit, shackles, and a bulletproof vest as he walked into Mariposa Superior Court Tuesday and faces three felony counts, including arson.
He is being held without bail. The judge cited the coming fire season and the danger Wackerman could pose. Authorities say if convicted on all counts, he could face a life sentence.
County officials told us they believe Wackerman used to be a firefighter himself.
“July 22, 2022, would change the lives of many residents as the oak fire tore through our communities. This fire would be the most devastating fire in Mariposa’s history,” said Mariposa County Sheriff Jeremy Briese.
He believes Wackerman will now face justice.
“As promised, we would use every available resource to bring you answers, and today is that day,” said the Sheriff at a press conference right outside the courthouse.
“It’s a huge, huge relief to know that they have made an arrest. If he’s arrested, I’m pretty sure they have everything lined up,” said Jeann-Anne Pine who remembers the day the fire started.
She still remembers the random path of destruction cut by the Oak Fire.
“We sat in the back and saw that fire just roam through the part of the mountains where his house was, and he knew he had lost everything,” she said.
The fire burned for twenty days.
“[And it] resulted in over $8.3 million dollars in property loss and over $100 million in Cal Fire response cost,” said Mariposa D.A. Walter Wall.
Officials believe Wackerman started three other fires, one on July 7, and another on July 10, before disaster struck on July 22, 2022.
“A fourth fire was set, this fire became known as the Oak Fire, one of the worst fires in Mariposa County history,” said Wall.
Wackerman did not enter a plea Tuesday, he is being represented by a public defender and is set to reappear here at the same courthouse on September 14 at 10:30 a.m.