This article is five days old. I'm posting it here for those who might have missed it. Photographer admits fire role By Angie Welling
Deseret News staff writer The nature photographer accused of setting fires at Delicate Arch last year pleaded guilty Friday in federal court.
Michael Fatali, Springdale, also pleaded guilty to setting two fires in Canyonlands National Park in August 1997. The 36-year-old professional photographer faces up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine for each of the seven misdemeanor counts.
Fatali also agreed to pay full restitution to the National Park Service for damage caused by the fires. Restoration is estimated at more than $16,000.
On Sept. 18, 2000, Fatali led a group of amateur photographers to Delicate Arch to photograph the famous four-story sandstone arch, which is the backdrop of some Utah license plates. At his direction, Fatali's assistant and others from the group set two fires, one directly under the arch and another to the east of the structure. Aluminum baking pans brought along to contain the fire failed, and the flames scorched and discolored the sandstone. Fatali tried to stomp out the fires, but one was still burning when the group left the area.
Park visitors reported the damage to rangers the next morning.
Officials were able to remove some of the scorch marks immediately, but remaining scars from the fire could not be removed because an oily or waxy stain had penetrated the rock.
Fatali on Friday also admitted to starting two fires in Canyonlands National Park, the first on Aug. 12, 1997, at Horsehoof Arch and again on Aug. 13, 1997, at the Joint Trails Needles District. He used wood from within the park to start the two fires, he said.
According to prosecutors, in November 2000 Fatali sent an e-mail message to members of the photography community apologizing for what happened, saying he "seriously regretted" the incident. "I simply screwed up," the message said.
Defense attorney Kristine Rogers declined to comment Friday, saying Fatali would make a statement after his Feb. 1, 2002, sentencing hearing.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Wayne Dance said Fatali fully acknowledged his criminal conduct by pleading guilty to all seven counts as charged.
"It's a matter that's very serious," Dance said. "All of our national parks are for the enjoyment of future generations."