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Grand Jury Indicts Local Fire Chief For Wildfire Related Death

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San Andreas, CA – A local fire chief has been arrested in connection with a wildfire-related death.

According to Calaveras County District Attorney Barbara Yook, this week the Grand Jury issued an indictment accusing 74-year-old Michael Ray Dell’Orto of Mokelumne Hill of felony involuntary manslaughter in connection to an incident that occurred over the period between July 17-29, 2017.

The timeframe matches that of the Maria Fire in Mokelumne Hill, which ignited in vegetation on July 17, 2017, near the intersection of Music Gulch and Jesus Maria roads within the Butte Fire footprint. As reported here, it threatened structures, triggered a temporary evacuation of Indian Gulch Road, and resulted in a civilian burn injury.

As reported here, the incident reached 95 percent containment at 117 acres on July 21. It was later reported that the injured man, local resident David Rios, suffered third-degree burns over 90 percent of his body and that he died of his injuries on July 29.

DA Yook says the indictment alleges that Dell’ Orto “killed David Rios, in the commission of a lawful act which might have produced death, in an unlawful manner, and without due caution and circumspection.”

According to the Mokelumne Hill Fire Protection District, which lists Dell’ Orto as its chief, has been associated with the district since 1963. The DA adds he surrendered himself to the Calaveras County Jail on Wednesday, was released after posting $25,000 bail, and has a court date set for Sept. 28 at 8:30 a.m. at the Calaveras County Superior Court.

CAL Fire officials, who have yet to release an official cause of the Maria Fire, are referring all calls to the DA’s Office, which declined to provide any further details at this time.