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Suspect arrested after Grass Valley fire linked to homeless camp

A homeless man was arrested Tuesday morning in connection with a small fire that reportedly started in his camp off Brunswick and Idaho Maryland roads.

The fire was reported around 9 a.m. Grass Valley firefighters arriving on scene reported a vegetation fire that was about 30-by-40 feet burning at a slow rate of spread in light brush.

Grass Valley police officers were called to assist after the fire was reported to have begun in a homeless camp, said Lt. Joe Matteoni.

Cody Gibson, 37, was detained at the scene and admitted he had started a warming fire in a metal fire “dish” that he had not extinguished the night before, Matteoni said.

“Embers from the fire apparently fell out of the holes in the bottom and side of the dish, sometime during the night or early morning,” Matteoni said. “They rolled into dry vegetation and ignited it.”

Gibson was charged with misdemeanor counts of unlawfully causing a fire of property and possessing drug paraphernalia, Matteoni said. He was booked into jail on $4,000 in bond.

The fire was contained within the hour and completely extinguished by 11 a.m., according to Grass Valley Fire Department officials. Nevada City, Cal Fire and Nevada County Consolidated Fire departments also responded to the fire.

According to Matteoni, Gibson was offered services, but he refused offers to help him relocate. He said he planned to continue camping in the woods, Matteoni said.

Grass Valley police officers, along with a team from Hospitality House, has been reaching out to campers in the woods.

“We’ve been running into a lot of resistance,” Matteoni said. “How can you help if they choose that lifestyle, if they refuse help?”

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, email lizk@theunion.com or call 530-477-4236.


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