Criminal charges filed for fire near Yosemite
A target shooter who started a blaze west of Yosemite National Park that destroyed 30 homes is facing criminal charges for using bullets with steel jackets, which are known to start fires, Mariposa County prosecutors said Thursday.
Davin Craig Mosher, 29, of Merced admitted that he started the Telegraph Fire on July 25 while shooting at a creek bank with a .30-caliber rifle near his family's mining claim northeast of Mariposa.
Mosher was charged Wednesday with carelessly starting a fire and illegal possession of an SKS semiautomatic rifle, both misdemeanors.
Prosecutors opted not to charge him with a more serious accusation of recklessly starting a fire, as he cooperated with investigators and called to report the blaze, District Attorney Robert Brown said.
"But he clearly was culpable, as he started it," Brown said.
The fire burned 34,000 acres and destroyed 100 outbuildings in addition to the 30 homes before crews finally controlled it in early August. Thirty-eight injuries were reported, all of them minor, and the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection estimated the cost of putting out the fire at $37.6 million.
Mosher said he hadn't realized he was using steel-jacketed bullets rather than ammunition with copper jackets, and investigators believe him, Brown said.
"He said he knew steel core ammunition could start a fire and he had some of that, but he kept it separate from the rest of his ammunition," Brown said.
Brown warned target shooters to test their ammunition with a magnet. "If it's attracted to a magnet, do not use the ammunition," the prosecutor said.
Mosher, a landscaper, could not be reached for comment Thursday. He is to appear in Mariposa County Superior Court on Oct. 27.
E-mail Henry K. Lee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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