Children started fire last month near Stateline |

Children started fire last month near Stateline

Gregory Crofton

Three boys admitted to starting a blaze last month that spread into brush and small trees near Montreal Road requiring a team of firefighters to extinguish it.

The boys, 12 and 14 years old from the neighborhood and a 14-year-old visiting from Sparks, used paper matches to light five fires on July 25. One of the fires turned into a blaze that burned a 75-by-75-foot patch of forest south of the intersection of Montreal and Echo roads.

U.S. Forest Service Fire Prevention Officer Beth Brady said children and teenagers playing with fire, or not being careful with it, is a real problem at South Shore. The source of fire typically comes from a book of matches or a cigarette.

“I would expect that kids would be more aware of the danger of fire,” Brady said. “The Forest Service and local fire departments do conduct (education) programs in schools.”

Police caught the boys after being called to the area regarding a report of related to the use of a pellet gun.

“The fire call came out about 45 to 50 yards from where we found them,” said South Lake Tahoe police Officer Brian McGuckin. “We put two and two together and figured they were the ones who did it. They said they had been out playing with matches, lighting little fires and putting them out by stepping on them.”

The boys, whose names were withheld because of their ages, were enrolled in a youth fire prevention program because of their crimes, according to Bill Johnson, an investigator with the Forest Service .

A different group of children are suspected to have started a brush fire off Susquehana Drive on July 12, and teen-agers smoking cigarettes may have caused a small fire on Muskwaki Drive on July 31, Brady said.

“The majority of kids play with fire out of curiosity,” Brady said. “A smaller percentage have social problems or problems at home and use fire as a release. An even smaller percentage are severely emotionally disturbed.”

Crews from the South Lake Tahoe Fire Department, Lake Valley and Tahoe-Douglas fire protection districts and the Forest Service all responded to the fire off Montreal. In all, 50 firefighters, a hand crew and a helicopter were used to extinguish the blaze.

– Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or by e-mail at

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