MARIPOSA -- The 29-year-old man convicted of starting the 34,000-acre Telegraph Fire was sentenced Thursday to three years summary probation and 60 hours community service.
Davin Craig Mosher, of Merced, expressed remorse for sparking the fire while target shooting on July 25. The relentless blaze destroyed 30 homes, cost the state more than $37 million to fight and resulted in millions of dollars of property damage.
However, no one suffered serious injuries as a result of the fire.
Mosher will pay a $500 fine as a part of his sentence -- but that's not all. Mariposa County District Attorney Robert Brown said Mosher could eventually pay astronomical restitution costs, possibly in the millions.
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Mariposa Superior Court Judge Wayne Parrish reserved determining those costs for another day, although Brown said that will probably happen "no time soon."
Still, Brown spoke well of Mosher, saying he's been very cooperative with law enforcement and has apologized for his actions.
"He'll unfortunately have this cloud hanging over him, probably forever," Brown said. "He has accepted responsibility for his conduct from day one, and we took that into consideration when we charged him."
Mosher told investigators he was target shooting in a Bureau of Land Management area along the Merced River where target shooting is legal. A steel-jacketed bullet Mosher fired hit a rock and sparked flames, which rapidly spread through dry grass.
He claimed that he was aware of the fire danger, but didn't know he was shooting steel-jacketed ammunition. Such ammunition is legal, but some shooting ranges have banned it because of the fire hazard it presents.
Mosher pleaded no contest earlier this year to two misdemeanor counts for carelessly starting the fire and having unregistered assault weapons. As a part of Thursday's sentence, his guns -- two SKS rifles with detachable magazines -- will be destroyed, Brown said.
Although Brown said the case obviously "had no winners," he hopes others will take account of Mosher's story and be extra careful before firing guns. "I hope people will learn from this and recognize that there is a danger from shooting out in the wild during fire season," Brown said. "You take a chance if you go out and shoot during fire season -- and this could be the possible result."
Reporter Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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