REDWOOD CITY -- An action-hungry volunteer firefighter who set a series of blazes and reported bogus emergencies was sentenced to two years in San Mateo and Sonoma county jails, authorities said Friday.
Nathaniel Ridgway Schmidt, 20, of Cazadero was sentenced to a year behind bars Friday in San Mateo County Superior Court, one day after he got the same penalty in Sonoma County. Schmidt, who set the fires "just looking for excitement," must also complete five years probation, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.
His Sonoma sentence took into consideration "lack of maturity, and strong family support, as well as developmental and learning issues," said District Attorney Jill R. Ravitch.
Schmidt was a Timber Cove Volunteer Fire Department member July 11, 2011 when he allegedly set a fire that scorched about a quarter acre at the San Andreas Dam near San Mateo. He was working at Crystal Springs Reservoir as part of a controlled burn and training exercise.
Though a supervisor had only ordered Schmidt to check a fire line for hot spots, with 30 minutes he yelling the flames were out of control and a helicopter as well as more firefighters were needed to put them out. However, firefighters quickly knocked out the flames and ruled out everything but arson.
Sonoma County prosecutors said he set several fires and reported false emergencies near Timber Cove and Cazadero between July 2011 and June 2012. He was also charged with reporting fake emergencies like a diver in trouble and a car down an embankment.
He allegedly confessed to the crimes and pleaded no contest in May to the charges in both counties. Schmidt is slated to start serving his sentence July 12 in Sonoma County.
Wagstaffe said the ex-firefighter, as part of his sentence, isn't allowed to have any "incendiary devices," including fireworks and matches.
"Somebody else is going to have to light the candles on the birthday cake," said Wagstaffe.
Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.