By Scott Hammers

The Bulletin

A Warm Springs resident is set to be sentenced for setting a fire that burned more than 51,000 acres of brush and timber on the reservation last summer.

Sadie Renee Johnson, 23, entered a guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Marco A. Hernandez in May in Portland. She’s due to be sentenced Sept. 3, and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Johnson is currently in federal custody.

In pleading guilty, Johnson admitted to tossing a lit firework from a car on Route 3 near Sunnyside Drive on the Warm Springs Indian Reservation at around 9:15 a.m. on July 20, 2013.

The fire that would become known as the Sunnyside Turnoff Fire was discovered within 15 minutes but could not be brought under control. Pushed by afternoon winds, the fire grew to 12,000 to 14,000 acres within a day, forcing the evacuation of guests at Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa and 40 homes on the reservation.

With temperatures in the mid to upper 90s, the fire grew to more than 45,000 acres within a week, and more than 800 firefighters were dispatched to the reservation to keep the flames in check.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs spent more than $7.9 million fighting the fire, which was not declared out for nearly two months. Johnson will be required to pay full restitution to the BIA.

Two days after starting the fire, Johnson posted a message on Facebook stating, “like my fire?”

Johnson told investigators she set the fire because her firefighter friends were bored and needed work, but did not expect it to grow to tens of thousands of acres.

— Reporter: 541-383-0387, shammers@bendbulletin.com

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