With the bail hearing in the case against David and Travis Smith only hours away, a witness in the immediate vicinity of the Caldor Fire’s ignition is speaking out. In a phone call, this witness told me they saw David and Travis Smith on Forest Road 9N45 near Dogtown Creek moments before seeing flames. For the purposes of this article they have chosen to remain anonymous.
According to their account, around 3:00 p.m. on August 14, 2021 the witness saw two men traveling in a “side-by-side” (what many often call a “dune buggy”) along Forest Road 9N45 heading north. There was nothing unusual about this first encounter. In fact, the witness said they probably would have forgotten about seeing the two men in the side-by-side if it wasn’t for coming across them again later.
Around 5:00 p.m., though the witness is careful to say it could have been anytime between 4-6:00 p.m., they saw the same side-by-side “coming up a kind of side trail, out of the ravine down there along Dogtown Creek.” According to the witness the two men “stopped and got out of their side-by-side. One was on the phone and the other told me there was a fire down there by the creek.” The men said they had been calling 911 and warned the witness to not go any further down the trail. The witness recalls the men “mentioning something about campers” but is unable to recall where the men said the campers were or what the comment was in relation to.
The witness tells me they continued further along the trail despite the warning and soon saw flames. “It was hard to tell, it didn’t look too big I guess. I don’t think the fire was moving really. But, I only looked for a few seconds and turned around.” The witness claims when they came back up the trail, the two men were gone. I asked if they heard any gunfire just prior to this and was told, “I heard some off and on that day, I can’t really remember. There were a bunch of a people out there, campers and stuff. I saw someone hiking I do remember that. Who knows where it was coming from.” The witness didn’t get a close enough look at the side-by-side to see whether a spark arrester was installed.
I showed the witness photos and videos of a side-by-side dune buggy posted to Travis Smith’s Instagram account, including the video below. The witness told me, “The one looks the same, with the red. pretty much identical.” The witness also claims to have previously made an identification of both David and Travis Smith using photos of the pair. “It was them. I saw them that day for sure,” they said.
I asked the witness their opinion of the charges and whether they think David and Travis Shane Smith are guilty. “It could have been them. Who knows. There were people around that day other than them.” The witness then reminded me that they never saw either of the accused start a fire, nor did either of the men mention such a thing. “They just told me there was a fire out there, told me to get out of there. So I did,” they said.
A bail hearing is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. today in the Superior Court of California at Placerville. According to statements made by defense attorneys last week, a bail reduction will be requested today on behalf of David and Travis Smith. More on that story soon.