Crime - Sacto 911

Spate of forest fires in Northern California started by one man, prosecutors say

Jeffrey Cameron Schmid
Jeffrey Cameron Schmid Plumas County Sheriff

Prosecutors say a Quincy man was responsible for setting several fires in the Plumas National Forest. The largest, the Minerva Fire, burned last month within two miles of the Plumas County seat.

Jeffrey Cameron Schmid, 36, made his first brief court appearance Tuesday. He is charged with five counts of arson.

Schmid, a Quincy High School graduate and Sierra Pacific Industries employee, was arrested Sunday evening when he was brought in for questioning shortly after two fires started on national forest lands south of Quincy, said Plumas County Sheriff Greg Hagwood.

Additional charges stem from the Minerva fire, which started July 27; the Rhinehart Meadows fire, which started Saturday near Mt. Hough; and the 89’er fire, the largest of three small fires started July 13 near the junction of state highways 89 and 70.

Since July a number of suspicious fires have started throughout southern Plumas County, said Hagwood. The largest one, the Minerva, grew to 4,310 acres and forced officials to announce voluntary evacuations in downtown Quincy.

The most recent fires, the Toll and Squirrel, have burned 370 acres in steep, rocky terrain and are still uncontained, according to Dustin Mueller, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman.

Plumas County District Attorney David Hollister charged Schmid with aggravated arson in connection with the Minerva fire. If convicted, Schmid faces 10 years to life in state prison.

The other four counts are for arson, which carries a penalty of two to six years in prison.

Sheriff’s officials working with Plumas National Forest officials are continuing to investigate the cause of several fire starts in the area, Hagwood said.

Schmid is being held in the Plumas County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond, Hagwood said.