The charge of converting a gun into a machine gun only seems to apply to the younger of the two Smiths. Whether or not these firearms charges are directly connected to the situation that caused the Caldor fire is not yet known. According to the Smiths’ attorney, Mark Reichel, no one was accusing the men of intentionally starting the blaze. Reichel told the New York Times that he was retained in August after the two men had their homes and phones searched by authorities.
The attorney says that the Smiths were the ones who tried to call in that a fire started and were “baffled by the suggestion” that they set the fire. “My clients and I have literally just sat and waited for this day to come. As we sit here tonight, we have no idea what the prosecution’s theory is on how the fire started.” The Smiths claim that they spotted the fire and tried to call 911 “several” times, as calls kept dropping. He told news outlets that his clients are from the area and love the nature that California affords.
CalFire says that only about 10% of the wildfires in California are set on purpose. Most are either a combination of lightning and high winds, accidents, or oversight due to greedy negligence on the part of energy company PG&E. PG&E’s faulty and neglected equipment was determined to have caused the 2018 Camp fire that killed 84 people and destroyed the entire town of Paradise, California. The utility company took time away from one of its many attempts to plead bankruptcy in order to plead guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter in June of 2020.
It remains to be seen whether authorities have evidence that the two Smith men started the fire, they seem to be potentially facing harsher sentences than PG&E.