October 20, 2020

Man involved in timber poaching, starting wildfire sentenced

A man involved in a timber poaching effort in Olympic National Forest that started a big wildfire has been sentenced to more than two years in prison.

Shawn Williams, 49, pleaded guilty to theft of public property and setting timber afire charges in U.S. District Court in December 2019, The Kitsap Sun reported.

Edwards and Justin Wilke were charged last year for their roles in an illegal logging operation in the national forest in 2018 in which they and others felled maple trees and sold the wood to lumber mills, according to court documents. The type of maple is highly prized and used to produce musical instruments, prosecutors said.

In August 2018, the group found a tree they wanted that contained a nest of bees and unsuccessfully tried to remove the bees with insecticide. Wilke then poured gasoline on the nest and lit it on fire, according to court documents. The group attempted to put the fire out with water bottles but the blaze spread and grew to become the Maple Fire, which burned more than 3,300 acres between August and November 2018.

The fire cost about $4.2 million to contain, according to prosecutors.

In a statement filed with the court this month, Williams was apologetic and said he had gotten involved in the tree cutting for money to travel home to California after his release from prison that summer.

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