BIG SUR, Calif. (KRON) — An illegal marijuana grower was found guilty of igniting the Big Sur Dolan Fire in Los Padres National Forest.
Ivan Gomez, 31, was convicted of arson by Monterey County Judge Pamela Butler on Thursday.
The 2020 Dolan Fire injured firefighters, destroyed 10 homes, and killed 12 wild California condors.
The Dolan Fire burned for four months and blistered 124,924 acres of Big Sur wilderness.
In addition to arson, Gomez was also convicted of illegally cultivating marijuana and animal cruelty.
The fiery saga began on August 18, 2020, at 8:15 p.m., when California State Parks officers saw a wildfire cresting a rugged ridgeline known as “top of the world.”
At the same time, law enforcement officers were dispatched to a shirtless man who was throwing rocks at vehicles on Highway 1 at Lime Creek Bridge.
The rock-thrower was identified by investigators as Gomez.
Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies said when they approached Gomez, claimed to have killed five men.
Gomez also said he lit the wildfire at an illegal marijuana grow on the other side of the ridge, prosecutors said.
Although there was no evidence of any homicides, an investigation by the US Forest Service confirmed that the wildfire originated at the marijuana grow site.
“The evidence showed the defendant would have had time to start the fire around 5 p.m. and make it to the Lime Creek area where he was confronted at 8:15 pm. Firefighters testified that no other individuals were found in this area and that the defendant was shirtless, sweating and was found with multiple lighters,” Monterey County prosecutors said.
The lighters matched others found at the origin point, prosecutors said.
The Dolan Fire was contained December 31, 2020.
Gomez faces of maximum sentence of 24 years in prison. He will be sentenced by Judge Butler on May 18.