IDL Wildfire Investigation and Collaboration Results in Conviction of Arsonist

Friday March 3, 2023

Boise, ID – Idaho Department of Lands (IDL) collaboration with the Idaho State Fire Marshall’s Office and law enforcement on arson fires last summer which resulted in a Bonner County man receiving 10 years in prison.

Ryan Nathaniel Greene was sentenced for six counts of Arson III for burning forestland on both state and federal lands. Fortunately the fires were extinguished before they grew very large.

IDL investigates all wildfires under its protection. Last summer IDL investigated 287 wildfires and of those, 132 were investigated as human caused.

Over the past two years the agency has worked to modernize its fire program. While IDL has always retained a few fire investigators on staff, its new Investigation Program is led by a dedicated manager and includes about 20 other IDL employees who completed specialized fire investigation training.

The program has taken fire investigations to a new level with advanced training, new techniques and new technology including specialized cameras and equipment to help identify accelerants.

“By developing our fire investigation program, our team has better experience, better knowledge, better qualifications, and better collaboration,” said Josh Harvey, IDL’s Chief of Fire Management. “An important part of modernizing fire management is the commitment to communicate and collaborate.”

IDL has successfully pursued civil actions against those who negligently start fires, holding the responsible person accountable for paying the cost of fighting the wildfire, but the agency has no statutory authority to pursue criminal charges. That’s why IDL collaborates with agencies with that can press criminal charges. One of the most vital resources for collaborating on arson fire investigations is the State Fire Marshal.

The State Fire Marshal is the Chief Arson Investigation Officer for the state of Idaho (Idaho Code 41-257) and is called in when it appears a wildfire may have been started by an arson.

Investigating wildfires requires agencies like the State Fire Marshal and local law enforcement working together. Pooling expertise and resources provides a surefire way to build strong cases that ensure criminal charges stand up in court.

Idaho’s Fire Marshal strongly advocates for the team approach, stressing that one agency cannot do everything alone.

"Anyone considering arson should know that we will investigate, and we will prosecute," stated State Fire Marshal Knute Sandahl. "Arson is harmful to our state and affects state resources. We are appreciative of all of the other agencies who assisted us in bringing this individual to justice, and protecting Idahoans from devastating fires and those who start them."

As time and collaboration progresses, IDL expects more arson caused wildland fires under investigation will be resolved.