Margaret Pavese of San Juan Batista faces only a misdemeanor charge, The San Jose Mercury News reported. But she could be found responsible for the estimated $13 million spent fighting the Lick Fire.
"She may have to pay the Department of Revenue for the rest of her life," said Frank Carrubba, supervising deputy district attorney for Santa Clara County.
At worst, Pavese is guilty of carelessness and of burning trash without a permit. But that carelessness, officials say, started a blaze that raged for more than a week, charring 47,760 acres, much of it in Henry Coe State Park.
Carubba described her as “extremely distraught” over what happened.
Pavese allegedly put paper plates in a barrel outside the cabin she and her husband owned north of the state park and lit them, before going inside. Three hours later she heard noises and went outside to find that the fire was starting to spread.