The man who dialed 911 at the start of Klamathon Fire in Siskiyou County has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and other felony charges in connection with the wildfire that burned most of the month of July in and around the community of Hornbrook, according to Cal Fire.
John Colin Eagle Skoda, 32, was arrested and charged Wednesday on seven charges – which also included causing fire of property and arson – after “recklessly burning debris” that sparked the 38,008-acre blaze on July 5, according to Cal Fire and Siskiyou County District Attorney Kirk Andrus.
Andrus said that Skoda called 911 after allegedly starting the fire on a friend’s property south of Hornbrook, and he has “never been hard to find, I think I’d classify him as pretty cooperative.”
A 72-year-old Hornbrook man, John Karl Bermel, was killed July 6 in the blaze. Three firefighters – including Brandon Feller, who suffered from severe burns on his legs and arms when winds changed and engulfed his truck in flames – were injured while contributing to fire suppressing efforts.
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Thousands of residents were forced to evacuate from Yreka to Ashland, Oregon, and Interstate 5 was shut down for several hours after the fire jumped the Klamath River and raced toward the town. Cal Fire said 82 structures were destroyed during the fire, and another 12 were damaged.
Skoda, who was reportedly living in San Francisco, was released on his own recognizance Wednesday afternoon from Siskiyou County Jail after pleading not guilty to the charges. Andrus called the charges against Skoda “crimes of recklessness.” His next court date is scheduled for Sept. 26, Andrus said.
Beyond the charge of involuntary manslaughter, Skoda also faces charges of recklessly causing a fire to burn property, inhabited homes and other structures, failing to prevent a fire from spreading, burning without a permit.