MARIPOSA COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- A 71-year-old man has been arrested for allegedly starting the Oak Fire in Mariposa County in July 2022.
CAL FIRE law enforcement officers took Edward Fredrick Wackerman into custody Friday on charges including suspicion of aggravated arson, arson that causes great bodily injury and arson causing damage or destruction of inhabited structures.
The Oak Fire burned nearly 20,000 acres and destroyed 127 homes plus 66 outbuildings.
Multiple agencies were involved in the investigation that led to Wackerman's arrest, including the Mariposa County Sheriff's Office plus state and federal agencies.
"Why? Why did he do it? Why did he feel he had to do that and destroy so many people's lives? It's sad," said Lyn, who lives in Mariposa.
She says the whole town worried as the Oak Fire raged in the hills around their town last July.
Once the flames passed, she watched her community rally around those who lost everything.
The news of Wackerman's arrest took her by surprise.
"To deliberately start and set that fire is absolutely appalling, and what's worse is I think I've actually seen him around the town," Lyn explained.
For those who lost their homes, the news doesn't change much.
"You forgive, I guess," said Jeremy Ogiley, who lost his house in the fire.
Last year, Ogiley collected what he could from his home before the flames consumed it.
"I stayed until about 10 o'clock. I could go in my house and see with no lights, no power. I could fully see everything. Outside, it was like daylight, and it was about 10:15 when I left, and I could feel the heat," recalled Ogiley.
He's spent the last year rebuilding his home and helping others rebuild but Mother Nature kept hitting.
"It flooded, then we had three feet of snow, then it flooded, and then it got 90 degrees, and all the water came down, then it kind of cooled down the last month," explained Ogiley.
On Friday, Ogiley and his team were working on a building damaged by the winter storms when they learned Wackerman had been arrested.
Ogiley says his work has served as a welcome distraction over the last year.
"Keep my mind focused on work and living instead of the destruction that happened," said Ogiley.
Some impacted would not or could not rebuild, leaving the ashes and debris as reminders of everything lost.