March 14, 2013 | Back to: Letters

Human-caused 4-acre blaze sparks early fire season

Thursday marked an early start to fire season.

A 4-acre vegetation fire, allegedly started by a Nevada County homeless man, broke out near the intersection of North Bloomfield and Rock Creek roads, outside of Nevada City.

The fire was reported at 7 a.m. Thursday but had likely been burning all night, as many residents in the area reported the smell of smoke throughout the evening.

“There was about a 4- to 12- inch flame length, and there was some singe up on some of the trees,” said Cal Fire Battalion Chief Sean Griffis. “It was a small backing fire largely due to the fact that it was still the cool part of the day. There was dew on the ground and in the air.”

The takeaway from the morning firefight is that conditions on the ground are currently similar to what fire officials would typically encounter in late May or early June, Griffis said.

“We’re looking at a pretty ferocious fire season,” said Nevada County Consolidated Fire District Division Chief David Ray. “Although, a lot depends on the weather.”

Ray, who sent two engines and a water tender to attend the smoldering blaze, said it was one of the largest brushfires he has seen in March.

“It’s pretty crazy,” he said. “It’s this year’s first real vegetation fire, and it comes pretty early in the season.”

Mark Gill, 46, was arrested around 7 a.m. by Nevada County Sheriff’s Office deputies near his campsite, close to the Diamond Arrow Campground off Rock Creek Road, said Sheriff Keith Royal.

Gill was apparently camping on Bureau of Land Management in the area, Royal said, and had consumed alcohol.

It appeared that Gill failed to adequately extinguish his fire from Wednesday evening before falling asleep, Royal said.

When firefighters arrived on scene, Gill was being hauled away in handcuffs, Ray said.

“We did arrest him for public intoxication,” Royal said, based on observations of his behavior.

Gill was also cited for an illegal campfire, an escaped campfire and burning other lands, charges issued by Cal Fire, Royal said.

Gill, a cook at a senior living facility, reportedly arrived in the area within the last eight months and was a former guest of Hospitality House, Nevada County’s leading homeless shelter and service organization, until he failed to meet their sobriety standards, Royal said.

In addition to Consolidated Fire and Cal Fire out of Higgins and Auburn, Washington Ridge contributed equipment and man power as well, Ray said.

The firefighters cut a line around the blaze, which crept down the hill and scorched a significant swath of land about half mile away from Edwards Crossing Bridge over the South Yuba River.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

“We’re looking at a pretty ferocious fire season.”
— Consolidated Fire District Division Chief David Ray

Matthew Renda
mrenda@theunion.com

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The Union Updated Mar 15, 2013 10:09AM Published Mar 17, 2013 03:30PM Copyright 2013 The Union. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.