San Juan Ridge fire cause investigated |

San Juan Ridge fire cause investigated

The day after four suspicious fires destroyed an outbuilding on the San Juan Ridge and threatened the Ananda Village religious community, investigators were still trying to determine the cause of the blazes.

One cabin was destroyed on the ridge, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. According to several residents, a man lost his home, as well. No one was hurt by the fires, which were first reported at 11:35 a.m. Saturday.

“When you get four fires that start at the same time – it’s suspicious,” CDF spokeswoman Tina Rose said Sunday. “We are following up the leads and reports – and there were plenty yesterday.”

The largest of the fires was near Ananda Way, at Tyler Foote Road, and burned 40 acres. A 15-acre blaze was found at Oak Tree Road and Highway 49. Another three-acre fire scorched a field at the corner of Tyler Foote Road and Highway 49. A smaller, 1/10-acre fire was extinguished by residents. All of the fires were contained Saturday by 4:30 p.m., according to the CDF.

Fire crews were still out at the sites of the fires Sunday, trying to determine their causes and where each one was started.

Nevada County Sheriff’s Cpl. Shannan Moon said Saturday that someone reported seeing a suspicious person and a vehicle in the area earlier. Rose said whether the fires were an accident or intentionally set, they were most likely human-caused.

No one was in custody as of Sunday evening.

CDF, Nevada County Consolidated and North San Juan fire departments responded to the blaze, as well as several strike teams from El Dorado, Butte and Amador counties, according to the CDF. About 10 helicopters and air tankers dropped fire retardant and water from a nearby pond on the fires.

After the blazes were contained, crews had to cut down trees in several areas, including some that were in danger of falling onto Tyler Foote Road.

While evacuations were not ordered in the 150-home Ananda community, many residents parked their vehicles along the exit street, most of them packed to the roof with personal belongings.

After Doug Shields learned of the fire, he quickly packed up his photographs, important documents, clothes and a tent and sleeping bag.

“Whatever we could get into suitcases in a hurry,” he said.

Shields said that North San Juan Fire Chief Boyd Johnson spoke to approximately 50 community members last month about clearing brush and creating defensible space around their properties.

“After he came, I raked (my yard) well,” he said.

Resident Gyanda Morgan said she was working at the guest services area in the community when the closest fire broke.

“The next thing you know, the gong was ringing, like a fire drill, for us to be alert and all together,” she said.

Local residents appeared grateful for the firefighters’ quick response Saturday. The National Weather Service issued a red-flag warning for the weekend because of low humidity and faster than usual winds, which make fighting fires more difficult.

As fire crews were battling to fully contain the 40-acre blaze at about 3 p.m., Andrea Eiermann, who lives on nearby Sages Road, watched from the roadside.

“I want to go home without having to worry about evacuating,” Eiermann said. “I am so blown away … that we have these guys. Our lives would have to start over without them.”

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