RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) The Wyoming woman responsible for starting the Jasper Fire in the Black Hills National Forest last summer will serve the maximum sentence for the crime.
Janice Stevenson of Newcastle, Wyo., was sentenced Monday for destruction of federal property and will serve 10 years in a federal prison.
She also faces up to 25 years in state prison after pleading guilty to second-degree arson charges in May. That charge involved destruction of a summer home owned by Jon and Sharon Kayser.
Prosecutors have said Stevenson, 46, stopped her vehicle near Jewel Cave National Monument on Aug. 24, lit a cigarette, threw a lighted match on the ground, watched as a small fire started and drove away.
A cabin and some outbuildings were destroyed. No one was hurt in the resulting forest fire, which burned almost 84,000 acres.
Stevenson was arrested about a month later and indicted.
U.S. District Judge Karen Schreier departed from federal sentencing guidelines to impose the maximum penalty.
I can tell that youre very sorry, Schreier told Stevenson. But the damage that you did to the Black Hills is going to take longer than the rest of your lifetime to restore.
Schreier said the stiffer sentence was required because of the magnitude of the damage done by the fire.
Aside from millions of dollars of property and timber damage, the fire also destroyed wildlife, wildlife habitat and the beauty of the forest that homeowners once enjoyed, Schreier said.
They cant receive back during their lifetimes the same natural beauty that existed around them, she said.
The Jasper Fire was the largest fire in Black Hills National Forest recorded history. The forest is located in southwest South Dakota and northeast Wyoming.
It burned more than 130 square miles, or 7 percent of the forest land, and cost at least $9 million to fight.
The total loss from the fire is estimated at over $40 million.
As part of a plea agreement, state prosecutors have agreed to ask for a 17-year sentence which will run concurrently with her federal sentence.
In exchange, Stevenson has pleaded guilty to second-degree arson and has agreed to answer questions about other unsolved arson fires.
Sentencing for the state charges will be Aug. 22.
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