Pubdate: Sun, 13 Jul 2014
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2014 Record Searchlight


ONO - A pot grower started the Bully Fire when his rental truck, 
filled with supplies for his 180-plant garden, ignited high grasses, 
Cal Fire agents said Saturday.

Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 27, of Sacramento, was arrested Friday 
evening following the fire's explosive growth across Platina Road 
west of Ono, said Cheryl Buliavac, with the California Department of 
Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire grew to 2,930 acres Saturday after it ignited about 3:37 
p.m. Friday near Roaring Creek and Sargent roads, Buliavac said. The 
blaze remained about 10 percent contained Saturday, though all 
evacuations were lifted just before 8 p.m.

The flames destroyed six buildings and damaged another, though it 
isn't clear whether they were homes, she said.

Only 15 structures were threatened Saturday, she said. Most of the 
active flames were burning the far end of the mile-wide, 
rocket-shaped burn scar extending northwest up Duncan Creek from Platina Road.

Fire investigators say that fire ignited when Smoke was driving a 
rented truck in steep, grassy terrain. It was hauling soil nutrients 
for his pot garden in the area, Buliavac said. An investigation 
revealed the truck's hot exhaust caught the vegetation on fire.

He faces charges of recklessly causing a fire and illegally growing 
marijuana, both felonies, Buliavac said. He is being held in lieu of 
$10,000 bail at the Shasta County Jail, jail records show.

Of the eight households displaced, about four to six families spent 
the night with their animals in the parking lot of Grant School, 
where the evacuation shelter was set up, said Michelle Perkins, Red 
Cross representative.

The families also stayed for breakfast, she said. Only helper animals 
are permitted inside the shelter.

One of the evacuees, Deanna Beery-Howard, returned to her home 
Saturday to find it intact and her chickens and cats alive.

She credited three firefighters from Shasta with saving the home on 
Platina Road after she saw "a wall of flames coming over the hill."

She fled to help evacuate a woman who lives farther east of their 
home, then Beery-Howard tried to return home.

"The flames were chasing me back up the road," she said. "We still 
have a house because of those firefighters."

But they still face a hefty job - the fire remained at 10 percent 
contained Saturday, primarily around the southeastern origin, Buliavac said.

That's the same level of containment as Friday night.

"The area where it's at, there's a lot of dense brush and it's very 
steep," said Buliavac. The weather won't be giving firefighters any 
breaks either, said Stephanie Henry, forecaster with the National 
Weather Service in Sacramento.

Sunday's high will be 105, and humidity in the area of the fire will 
be low, she said. Winds on the ridges could reach 30 mph, she said.

"Temperatures will actually continue to climb into Monday," she said. 
"Just dryer air and hotter temperatures."

Tuesday and Wednesday bring chances of thunderstorms, including near 
the fire. While firefighters would welcome rain, she said the thunder 
and gusts could cause problems There is, however, some good news: 
Henry said winds overall aren't expected to be too bad.

Bully Fire map link for app viewers:
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom