On the eve of their arraignment, friends of David and Travis Smith are speaking out. One source, interviewed on the condition of anonymity, stated in the decades they have known the Smith family, they have never seen David nor Shane in any sort of legal trouble. “They are good, hard-working people. David has a son who is a veteran. Travis is a successful electrician. Just good Americans, the both of them” the source said.
Another friend who also chose to remain anonymous expressed anger that David was arrested at his place of business. “Why did they have to embarrass him like that? It’s not like the guy was a flight risk. He’s just going to work everyday. Why didn’t they just ask their attorney to bring them in?” David has worked at the Pepsi bottling plant on Reese Road in Sacramento for over 30 years. He is due to retire next year.
The same source also stated that Travis, who goes by his middle name, Shane, with close friends, “Is one of the hardest working people I know. The guy was running his own electrical business and owned two properties before he was even 30. Just a stand-up guy.” Travis (Shane) Smith was on a call for an electric job at West Park High School in Roseville, CA when he was arrested on Wednesday.
Both friends also state they have been in regular contact with David and Travis (Shane) since the Caldor Fire began. The Smiths did not mention the searches conducted on their properties since August, nor did they mention they were the target of law enforcement’s investigation.
Mark Reichel, attorney for the Smith’s, confirmed with me in a phone call Thursday afternoon that David and Travis (Shane) have been under investigation since a few days after the start of the fire. Mr. Reichel states that the Smiths began receiving phone calls from investigators “a few days after” reporting the fire. The following Friday they hired Mr. Reichel, and the following Sunday, he says, their properties were “raided.”
As he has stated in several interview throughout the day, Mr. Reichel told me neither David nor Travis (Shane) had anything to do with starting the fire. He claims they were simply in the area enjoying the land when they spotted fire and Travis called 911. Mr. Reichel states that Travis had to call emergency services “two or three times because the call kept getting dropped,” but he was able to get to the message through. He also states the Smiths then located campers they had seen earlier to warn them of the approaching fire, and that these people were wildland camping and not in a proper campground.
At the time of our interview, roughly 24 hours since his clients arrest, Mr. Reichel stated he had “no idea what is going on” and that he had not received any information from the District Attorney nor Sheriff. “While strange,” he said, “it’s not illegal. They have 48 hours to charge or let them go.”
Moments before this writing, Luke Cleary of ABC10 broke the story that the El Dorado County District Attorney officially filed charges against the Smiths for reckless arson and allegedly starting the Caldor Fire. You can follow Luke on Twitter at @LukeCleary.
I also asked Mr. Reichel about the social media rumor mill and if there as anything he felt needed cleared up. He stated that the Sacramento Bee ran a story quoting a source as saying investigators believe the Caldor Fire started due to the Smiths illegally discharging weapons, and others began attributing the quote to Mr. Reichel. He stated, “I have no idea why people are saying that source was me. I have no idea what the theory is. No idea what the prosecution theory is at all.” I asked him if he had any concerns for his clients safety given the response on social media. “Yes, I absolutely do” he said. “The mob is out with the pitchforks.”
Before wrapping up my interviews with the Smith family friends, I asked if there was anything else they wanted to say about the investigation. Aside from their glowing descriptions of David and Travis (Shane), one friend expressed frustration at the firefighting response. “How long was it before the fire fighters got there? Why can’t we know that? They go after my friends and put all this garbage out there about them, but they can’t tell us how long it took firefighters to get there after they got the call? Something just isn’t right here.”
At the time of this writing, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s office and the Sheriff’s office have not responded to requests for comment.