Two campers arrested by Grass Valley police on open fire charges (VIDEO) | TheUnion.com

Two campers arrested by Grass Valley police on open fire charges (VIDEO)

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Look in Monday’s edition of The Union for a more detailed article on the effort to get homeless campers into housing or treatment.

A small vegetation fire that broke out off Old Tunnel Road in Grass Valley Tuesday night had no connection to the arrest of two men later that night on charges that included having an unlawful open fire, authorities said.

Grass Valley police officers checking known transient campsites on the Loma Rica Ranch property made those arrests, said Sgt. Brian Blakemore. The sergeant is part of a three-officer team taking a more active role in working to get homeless campers into housing or treatment, in collaboration with Nevada County’s Homeless Outreach Medical Engagement team and Hospitality House.

The primary goal of the outreach effort is getting those who are living in the woods into a more stable and safe situation.

But, said Blakemore, “With the Public Safety Power Shutoffs, we are taking a zero tolerance approach to any active fire, and that includes campfires.”

Both men were camping off Idaho Maryland Road. Henry Dewitt Ray had fashioned a cabin with a wood stove that was vented with a jury-rigged gutter pipe through a slab of Styrofoam, Blakemore said.

“It was just unsafe,” Blakemore said, citing the possibility of carbon monoxide buildup inside the cabin or embers getting out through the vent pipe and igniting branches outside.

Jack Kibbe, meanwhile, had dug out a fire pit in front of his tent and lined it with rocks, the sergeant said.

“Both men were actively stoking their fires” when officers arrived, Blakemore said. “All you (would have needed) is for somebody to go to bed and think the fire’s put out.” Ray, 50, was arrested on suspicion of having an unlawful open fire, camping inside city limits, and possessing drug paraphernalia. He was booked and released on $5,000 in bond, Nevada County Jail records state.

Wednesday afternoon, Ray was back at his camp site but told Blakemore he would be in contact with services being offered by the HOME team.

Kibbe, 39, was charged with having an unlawful open fire, camping inside city limits, and possessing a controlled substance and drug paraphernalia, as well as violating probation. He was released on $14,500 in bond, jail records state.

According to Blakemore, the fire on Old Tunnel Road earlier Tuesday night did not appear to be associated with an active or abandoned transient camp.

The cause of that quarter-acre fire remains under investigation, said Nevada County Consolidated Fire Battalion Chief Jim Smith.

Smith said Consolidated firefighters responded to the small fire just before 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, along with Grass Valley, Nevada City and Cal Fire.

“Due to the Red Flag warning, it was something we jumped on as fast as possible,” he said. “Fortunately this was close to a fire station … Crews got to it quickly and knocked it down quickly.”

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


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