U.S. Forest Service: arsonist in South Shore fires is just speculation | TahoeDailyTribune.com

U.S. Forest Service: arsonist in South Shore fires is just speculation

Claire Cudahy

Though people start 95 percent of fires across California, and in the span of a week there have been four fires on National Forest land alone, that does not mean there is an arsonist on the loose, clarified Lake Tahoe’s U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lisa Herron.

“Just because they are human caused doesn’t mean they are malicious,” said Herron, in response to speculation in the media. “The biggest problem we’ve been having is people continue to have illegal fires and unattended fires. That’s our biggest problem in the Basin.”

Most recently, there was a fire reported at 12:30 a.m. on Aug. 7 off Edna Street on Pioneer Trail. Half an acre of National Forest land was burned. The day before a 30 by 40 foot patch of Rabe Meadow in Stateline, Nevada, was scorched. Both causes remain under investigation.

“People have been doing a lot of speculation about what’s going on because we’ve had several fires over the last week. It doesn’t mean it’s arson or suspicious,” expressed Herron.

According to Herron, there are many ways that people can unintentionally cause fires, such as mowing dry grass or brush when conditions are dry, hot and windy.

“If the mower hits a rock, it could start a spark,” said Herron.

A vehicle parked on dry vegetation could start a fire due to the heat of the catalytic converter, as could an off-road vehicle with an insufficient spark arrester.

“Previously we had a vehicle coming over Luther Pass with a chain dragging behind it that caused a spark and started a fire,” said Herron.

“The bottom line here is we would like people to not speculate and let the investigators do their job.”

Sometimes the cause of the fire is obvious and the investigators know right away, but not always, noted Herron.

Since May 31, there have been 39 fires on National Forest Land.

“I asked the Fire Chief Steve Burns about that number and he said that’s pretty typical. The fire activity we’ve been experiencing here is not unusual,” said Herron.

Herron stressed the importance of adhering to the Basin-wide fire restriction on National Forest land, which dictates that no open fires, campfires or charcoal fires are allowed outside of exempted recreation sites even with a valid permit.

Additionally, no smoking is allowed except within an enclosed vehicle, building or exempted recreation site.

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