WASHINGTON, D.C. – In August 2018, two individuals were illegally cutting and removing multiple Big-Leaf Maple trees on the Olympic National Forest which resulted in the ignition of a wildland forest fire, known as the “Maple Fire,” that burned approximately 3,300 acres, costing over 4.1 million dollars in suppression efforts.
USDA Forest Service Law Enforcement and Investigations personnel from Region 6, Northwest Washington Zone along with a special agent, with assistance from multiple state and federal agencies, conducted over a yearlong investigation of the Maple Fire. The wildland fire cause and origin investigation, evidence recovered from the crime scene, and interview statements determined the fire was intentionally ignited to kill nesting bees while illegally harvesting a Big-Leaf Maple tree to be sold as figured maple wood blocks. Upstream from the Maple Fire origin, three Big-Leaf Maple trees, valued over $31,800, had been illegally cut and portions of the wood removed. Through evidence collected at multiple crime scenes, it was determined maple wood blocks commonly used in the production of musical instruments were sold by one of the suspects to a mill owner in Tumwater, Washington.
Through a Federal Grand Jury, the USFS received a True Bill Indictment which included eight felony counts; Conspiracy, Theft, Depredation, Setting Timber Afire, a Lacey Act violation (Trafficking Unlawfully Harvested Timber), and Using Fire in Furtherance of a Felony (10-year minimum). Based upon the Federal Grand Jury findings, federal arrest warrants were issued for the two identified suspects. Both suspects have been taken into custody by the US Marshal Service with assistance from the FBI and State Law Enforcement Agencies. Judicial proceedings are pending.