Man cited for sparking Table Rock Fire: 'I am innocent'

Accused Table Rock fire-starter speaks out

BOISE -- Ada County Sheriff's deputies cited a 19-year-old Boise man for starting the Table Rock Fire in late June after they say he admitted to lighting illegal fireworks.

But he tells KTVB he was pressured into making a false confession.

"I'm innocent," Taylor Kemp said, "I will take that to the court. I am innocent."

The blaze destroyed 2,600 acres and a family's home in the Boise foothills. Fire investigators determined it was caused by illegal fireworks.

The Ada County Sheriff's Office published a blog post on Wednesday saying 19-year-old Taylor Kemp admitted to starting the fire.

They cited him for violating Ada County Code which bans all fireworks in the foothills and any other areas that constitute a “severe fire threat” between June 1 and October 31. The violation is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail and $1,000 dollar fine.

Kemp is the same person who called 911 from the top of Table Rock to report the fire, and who talked to us about witnessing it the next morning.

But after Ada County sheriff's deputies and detectives interviewed him for a second time in late August, they say he confessed. KTVB reached out to ACSO for a response to Kemp's claims, but for now, they are referring us to their blog post.

Kemp says when investigators interviewed him last month, they forced him into saying that he could have started the Table Rock Fire.

But on Wednesday, he stood by his innocence.

"They were just harping on me, [saying] 'We know you did, it we know you did it, we know you did it. Stop lying," Kemp explained. "I couldn't even get my point across. I finally just stopped talking and was literally in fetal position against a tree."

RELATED: 19-year-old cited for starting Table Rock Fire

ACSO sifted through more than a hundred tips and conducted several interviews, including one with Kemp the morning after the blaze broke out.

In their post, the sheriff's office says: "Taylor Kemp admitted to detectives he was shooting Roman Candles by the road near the Table Rock gate just before midnight June 29 when he said the wind knocked one of them over. The flaming projectiles ignited the side of a nearby hill."

Flames quickly torched 2,600 acres of Boise's backdrop.

"Illegal fireworks in an illegal area set off on one of the hottest days of the year in dry grass, I think that's the definition of negligence," Boise Fire Chief Dennis Doan told KTVB.

Kemp stands by a different story than what the sheriff's office said happened.

He says he and a friend went up to Table Rock that night to watch a lightning storm when they saw a group of kids shooting off fireworks near the gate. As soon as the fire sparked, he watched the kids race away in a jeep.

"So I turn around on one and I see a fire. So me and my friend run over and stop - I don't see how I'm the bad guy if I tried to stop the fire."

RELATED: Investigators say fireworks sparked wildfire near Table Rock

Kemp admits to setting off Roman Candles in the foothills a week and a half before the fire broke out. He got aerial fireworks at a stand in Elmore County - which are legal to buy but illegal to use in Idaho. He says he didn't know they were illegal.

"I stopped at fireworks stand. I'm a pyro at heart, I like fireworks," Kemp added. "Guess now I'm being punished for it."

He believes that's how investigators found fireworks with his fingerprints.

As we saw with the Table Rock Fire, lighting illegal fireworks in the Boise foothills can cause devastating outcomes.

"The consequences are you're going to burn thousands of acres and a home and endanger a lot of lives and property," Chief Doan said.

Doan tells KTVB the city of Boise is seeking $150,000 in restitution for the cost of fighting and managing the blaze.

"We send a lot of firefighters on scene that are putting their life on the line to try to protect those homes. So when somebody is setting off illegal fireworks in an illegal area these are the consequences," Doan added.

Bureau of Land Management helped fight the Table Rock Fire, and while they don't have exact costs yet, they are seeking restitution and initial estimates were close to $250,000. Awarding that money to the City of Boise and the BLM will ultimately be up to a judge.

Kemp says he is due in court sometime later this month.

Copyright 2016 KTVB


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