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Join date: May 20, 2022


A US man who started a wildfire that killed 12 endangered California condors and seriously injured a firefighter has been sentenced to 24 years in prison.

Prosecutors say Ivan Gomez, 31, set the Big Sur Dolan fire in August 2020 while illegally cultivating cannabis in the Los Padres National Forest.

The blaze spread across 125,000 acres of forest and was not contained for more than four months.

It destroyed 14 structures and an 80-acre condor sanctuary.

The facility - built in 1997 to release condors bred in captivity into the wild - was empty at the time but a dozen of the giant vultures are said to have died as the fire spread through the forest.

The captive-breeding programme inside Los Padres was part of a last-ditch conservation effort in the 1980s, when only 22 condors were left in the wild. The species' numbers have since grown.

The Dolan fire, on California's central coast, also nearly took the lives of 14 firefighters after their station was overrun by flames and they were forced to seek emergency shelter.

A fire captain was seriously injured and two others were also taken to hospital for burns and smoke inhalation.

IMAGE SOURCE,SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE VIA GETTY IMAGES Image caption,California condors, like this one seen in 2012, are critically endangered

According to the county district attorney's office, Gomez had been arrested after state park officers spotted the fire and received reports of a man throwing rocks at vehicles on a nearby highway.

He is said to have been shirtless, sweating and carrying several lighters that matched those found at the fire's point of origin.

Gomez confessed to officers that he had an illegal cannabis grow in the forest and it had started the fire.

The fire was not contained until New Year's Eve in 2020.

On Wednesday, Gomez was found guilty on 16 felony counts, including arson, throwing rocks at vehicles, cultivating cannabis and 12 counts of cruelty to animals.

He will serve his time in state prison.

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Man gets 24 years over fire that killed 12 condors

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