Jury finds man guilty of arson for starting the August 2020 Dolan Fire

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The blaze burned more than 124,000 acres along the coast and mountains of Central California in 2020

Ivan Geronimo Gomez
Ivan Geronimo Gomez. Monterey County Jail photo.

A 31-year old man was convicted Thursday of starting the Dolan Fire that burned 124,527 acres along the coast and mountains of Central California in 2020. A judge found Ivan Gomez guilty of arson, throwing rocks at a vehicle, cultivating marijuana, and 11 counts of cruelty to animals for killing multiple condors. In all Mr Gomez was found guilty of 16 felony counts.

After the fire started on August 18, California State Parks personnel detained Gomez at the John Little State Natural Reserve near the fire’s origin in Dolan Canyon. He had been seen throwing rocks at vehicles on Highway 1 and the Lime Creek Bridge. Mr. Gomez told officers that he had started the fire at an illegal marijuana grow on the other side of the ridge and killed five men.

Map of the Dolan Fire
Map of the 124,527-acre Dolan Fire, Central California, 2020.

There was no evidence of any homicides, but a multi-week investigation by US Forest Service fire investigators confirmed the fire did in fact originate at the illegal marijuana grow site. According to the Monterey County District Attorney’s Office, this piece of evidence proved to be key as the defendant correctly identified the area of origin, which was also confirmed by a defense expert. The evidence showed Mr. Gomez 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 p.m. Firefighters testified that no other individuals were found in this area and that the defendant was shirtless, sweating, and was found with multiple lighters on his person when contacted by law enforcement. The lighters were in working order and matched others found at the point of origin. In a three-hour interview with detectives from the Sheriff’s Department Mr. Gomez admitted numerous times that he started the fire.

The Dolan fire destroyed 14 structures including 10 residences. It also ruined multiple condor nesting structures and caused 12 condor birds to perish, injuring several more.

On September 8, 2020 the fire burned over and destroyed the US Forest Service fire station on Nacimiento-Fergusson Road seven miles from the California coast highway. Personnel there at the time included two USFS engine crews, two dozers with operators, and the only Division supervisor working the night shift due to a shortage of personnel. Fifteen firefighters deployed into only 13 fire shelters. Four were injured and three were hospitalized. One had very serious burns and had to rely on contributions from a GoFundMe account to help pay for his desperately needed long-term medical treatment, since the federal government dragged their feet in paying the bills.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

7 thoughts on “Jury finds man guilty of arson for starting the August 2020 Dolan Fire”

  1. Matt, racist dogwhistle undertone aside, a wildfire is a wildfire unless those started by “illegals” are somehow more important than those caused by American citizens. As for the rest of your word salad, where did you get the information about the Central American countries.

    1. jwinder: illegals are indeed the source of the crime the illegals commit. I asked the question because I’ve noticed a pattern of systemic media omission of data that would be standard and relevant in other contexts. I don’t have to wonder for a second if you would think it was perfectly appropriate, for example, for Canadians to raise citizenship and therefore border control questions if vacationing college students from the US were causing a disproportionate number of DUI fatalities in Canada or for Mexican media to raise the citizenship questions if they suspected Americans were disproportionately impacting protected wildlife in Mexico with jet skis. Paying casual attention, citizens Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador seem to cause a disproportionate number of wildfires and certainly DUI fatalities in the US. This fire is an example of a tragic event that would not have happened if immigration law were enforced instead of systematically flaunted by Government institutions.

      1. I find your conclusion interesting, since there has been no reputable report that Gomez was an illegal immigrant. Try paying a bit more than “casual” attention; actually have a look at the overall statistics, and stop looking for some group to blame.


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