Hunter charged with setting 2013 Yosemite fire

A firefighter uses a hose to douse the flames of the Rim Fire on August 24, 2013 near Groveland, Calif.

Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

FRESNO, Calif. - A California hunter was charged Thursday with starting the state's third-largest wildfire last year, reports CBS San Francisco. The 2013 blaze burned hundreds of square miles of land in Yosemite National Park and the Stanislaus National Forest.

A grand jury returned a four-count indictment against 32-year-old Keith Matthew Emerald alleging he started a fire on Aug. 17, 2013 which spread beyond his control and turned into the massive Rim Fire. Federal prosecutors said temporary fire restrictions in place at the time prohibited fires.

Emerald, from the town of Columbia in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is also charged with lying to a federal agent by saying he did not set the fire.

The blaze raged for two months, covering 400 square miles of land, according to the station. It ranks as California's third-largest wildfire and the largest in the Sierra Nevada's recorded history. Efforts to fight the flames cost over $125 million.

"The Rim Fire was one of the largest in California history and caused tremendous economic and environmental harm," U.S. Attorney Benjamin Wagner said in a written statement. "While those harms cannot be undone, today we have brought criminal charges relating to the cause of the fire."

The station reports the charges came as a result of an investigation by the U.S. Forest Service and the Tuolumne County district attorney's office, according to Wagner.