Man responsible for Table Rock fire given jail time, must pay $391,790 in restitution

Scenes from the Table Rock fire

Firefighters battle an early morning blaze in June 2016.
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Firefighters battle an early morning blaze in June 2016.

In the end, Taylor Kemp had nothing to say.

The Boise man eagerly talked of last summer’s Table Rock blaze with local media, describing his call to 911 and the people he said were responsible for lit fireworks that started the blaze. He even spoke to reporters after he was cited for illegal use of fireworks and professed his innocence.

But on Friday, he shook his head no after Ada County Magistrate James Cawthon asked if he had anything to say before sentencing him Friday morning. He sat quietly in court, stone-faced. He did not apologize.

Kemp was sentenced to the maximum six months in jail, but Cawthon suspended all but 20 days.

Cawthon gave the 20-year-old a stern lecture before ordering him to spend four days in jail and spend another 16 days in jail/or on a community service detail, after pleading guilty earlier this year for violating Ada County’s fireworks ordinance.

“It’s a bargain,” Cawthon said. “You’re lucky the Bureau of Land Management pumped every resource they had at it. You’re lucky Boise police put every unit, every officer on this. You’re lucky Boise fire responded as quickly as they did and then unloaded every single station in the city, every single resource as their disposal.

“Their work in the middle of the night, in high winds changing three, four, five, six times amid that heat and that smoke, in the darkness saved lives, saved property. You’re lucky.”

The Boise Foothills fire burns near the Morningside Heights subdivision in June 2016.

Kemp was also placed on probation for two years and ordered to pay $391,790 in damages to the Bureau of Land Management, the Boise fire and police departments, Idaho Power and Van Danielson, who lost his home and belongings in the fire.

With that, Cawthon told Kemp he got off easy in the aftermath of the blaze that burned from late on June 29, 2016 into the next day. The blaze consumed 2,500 acres of land, burned Danielson’s home and threatened dozens more.

Cawthon, who earlier in the week found Kemp responsible for the fire set off when a Roman candle tipped over and ignited dry grass, told Kemp he was old enough to know better and said it was “extremely foreseeable that this could have happened.”

Kemp, wearing a white dress shirt and slacks, showed no emotions as he listened to the judge.

“You can’t live in Boise, Idaho, you can’t live on the Boise Front one summer without knowing the ever-present danger of wildland fires. It’s everywhere you look,” Cawthon said.

Cawthon told Kemp he was disappointed the defendant had nothing to say.

“I don’t know how you feel about what happened. I haven’t heard anything said to Mr. Danielson about his losses,” Cawthon said.

Back in September, Danielson, 72, told the Statesman he hoped the defendant would be forced to come out and help him clean up the mess left from the fire. Cawthon said he hoped Kemp would take him up on the offer as part of his community service.

“I guess we’ll find out what kind of man you are,” Cawthon said.

Taylor Kemp, 19, was cited with a fireworks violation relating to the Table Rock Fire, which consumed at least 2,500 acres, threatened dozens of homes and blackened a well-known Boise Foothills landmark in late June 2016. Kemp for months denied ha

Outside court, Danielson said he held out little hope that he’d get paid for his losses. He didn’t have any insurance on his home and possessions.

“I have two options in getting any money out of him: slim and uh-uh,” Danielson said.

Danielson said he also expected Kemp to address the court and was dismayed that he didn’t get an apology.

“What happened to ‘I’m sorry’? Two words,” Danielson said, shaking his head. “I thought he would show some remorse. He showed none. I don’t think this kid has any moral fiber.”

Danielson hugged Deputy Prosecutor Tamera Kelly and thanked her for her hard work.

“The hard work was pretty much done by the first responders who risked their lives to put out the fire and saved lives by keeping it from destroying other homes,” she said.

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