Multiple weekend fires on Ridge seen as suspicious
Several fires that broke out along Tyler Foote Crossing Road on the San Juan Ridge Saturday are being described as suspicious by state fire officials.
One cabin at the Ananda Village spiritual community was destroyed, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Several residents said a man lost his home, as well. No one was hurt at the fires, which were first reported at 11:35 a.m.
The largest of the fires was near Ananda Way, at Tyler Foote Road, at 40 acres. A 15-acre blaze was found at Oak Tree Road and Highway 49. Another, 3-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 by 4:30 p.m., CDF spokesman Daniel Berlant said.
Nevada County Sheriff’s Cpl. Shannan Moon said the cause of the fire is under investigation, and that someone reported seeing a suspicious person and a vehicle in the area earlier.
Berlant agreed, saying that whether the fires were an accident or intentionally set, they are most likely human-caused.
“We are considering the cause of these fires to be suspicious,” he said.
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, Berlant said. About 10 helicopters and air tankers dropped fire retardant and water from a nearby pond on the fires.
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 about 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.
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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The Red Flag Warning that started Monday is set to expire at 11 a.m. today, the National Weather Service said.