An 18-year-old Boise County volunteer firefighter accused of purposefully lighting a wildfire that destroyed one home and threatened more than 100 others in September is set to begin a jury trial early next year.
Nathaniel Bartholomew pleaded not guilty Thursday to one charge of felony third-degree arson. A trial is set to begin Feb. 21 in Boise County in front of 4th District Judge Patrick Owen.
Third-degree arson is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
The Karney Fire started Sept. 17 about five miles north of Highway 21 along Robie Creek Road in Boise County. By the time firefighters got containment on the blaze several days later, 440 acres had burned.
Boise County sheriff's officials say the blaze was started by Bartholomew, a member of the Clear Creek volunteer fire department who lives in the Robie Creek area.
Sheriffs officials say Bartholomew might have set the fire to get the attention of his father, also a firefighter. Boise County Chief Deputy Dale Rogers added that Bartholomew told investigators that working with his dad on fires was a bonding experience.
Bartholomew was identified as a suspect Sept. 17 after someone saw him walking away from where the fire started. Sheriffs deputies found Bartholomew working the fire with the Clear Creek volunteers and took him into custody.
Bartholomew posted a $5,000 bond and left the Ada County Jail Thursday, according to court records.
The Karney Fire was a major priority for fire crews in mid September. At one point, more than 300 firefighters on the ground were assisted by tanker planes and helicopters as they worked to keep the fire from getting into the Wilderness Ranch subdivision.
About 80 homeowners were given evacuation notices and roads in the area were closed to all traffic. The aggressive firefighting effort was assisted by cooler temperatures, light rain and higher humidity of fall.