Saturday, 02 December 2023

Investigators search for fire's cause

A Cal Fire investigator looks over the fire scene on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.


LAKE COUNTY – Officials are still investigating the cause of a fire that burned near homes in north Lakeport on Wednesday.

Two fires merged and created a larger blaze, which Cal Fire investigators on Thursday said burned a total of 22 acres.

The fire threatened several dozen homes in the Lakeside Heights subdivision near Sutter Lakeside Hospital, as well as the subdivision's former clubhouse, now a private residence, and a recent development just east of the fire area.

A single structure, located 600 feet west of the nearest residence, was destroyed in the blaze. The building was used as a storage area as well as housing utility and service equipment specific to the subdivision.

Lakeport Fire Protection District Chief Ken Wells said he had two engines and a water tender on scene from his agency, along with three engines from Northshore Fire, and an engine and a water tender from the US Forest Service.

Cal Fire had four engines, one helicopter, one air attack, three air tankers and a hand crew on scene, said Wells.

Only the helicopter dropped water – mostly on the burning building – while the air tankers and spotter circled overhead. “I held them in orbit for a while,” said Wells, explaining that the planes can help spot additional fires in such situations.

Each successive water drop by the helicopter extinguished the building's fire, with the resulting electrical arcing reigniting the heavy wood framing left smoldering under the buildings collapsed tile roof.

Firefighters eventually extinguished the remnants of the structure but were initially ordered not to attack the building from the ground due to the live heavy voltage electrical connections contained therein.

Wells initially had organized the response, which was then handed over to Cal Fire because the blaze was located in the state responsibility area (SRA).

Later, Wells said he looked toward Nice and saw smoke coming from the Robin Hill area off of Lakeshore. There, they found a third and separate grass fire, measuring about 100 feet by 100 feet, which they extinguished.

Cal Fire Capt. Bob Farias was called to the scene late Wednesday afternoon and began his investigation as soon as the bulk of ground personnel had left the site.

He said he's trying to determine the ignition points of the two separate fires as well as the cause of each.

He returned Thursday and was joined by a Cal Fire command engineer, and they began dissecting the clues left behind in the charred fuel bed.

By the end of the day Thursday, Farias could not offer any solid conclusions as to the cause of the two fires.

Also on scene Thursday were three AT&T trucks working to restore communication lines. Pacific Gas and Electric workers appeared to have their work completed earlier in the day.

Elizabeth Larson contributed to this report.

E-mail Harold LaBonte at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



The fire had burned dangerously close to homes in the Lakeside Heights subdivision in north Lakeport. The charred ground is pictured on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.




Cal Fire Capt. Bob Farias works at the investigation scene on Thursday, July 9, 2009. Photo by Harold LaBonte.

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