Blaze 'pattern' suspicious
An arsonist may have started five grassfires Thursday that damaged one outbuilding, threatened several homes and burned more than 30 acres of grassland along the Sutter Buttes, according to a fire official.
"That's definitely a possibility," said Sutter County Fire Chief Chuck Vanevehoven after he spent more than an hour managing crews fighting the fires.
"It's my intention to work with the Sutter County Sheriff's Department and talk about additional patrols here," he said.
No one was injured in any of the blazes, which were all contained within an hour, he said.
The fires began along two roadsides - one near the 12400 block of West Butte Road and four others along West Butte Road shortly before 3:45 p.m.
Firefighters did not find ignition devices or sources of the fire. They will continue their investigation today.
So far this month, there have been seven suspicious fires in the same area, including Thursday's blazes, Vanevehoven said. The other two fires stared near West Butte and North Butte roads on July 4, he said.
"There seems to be a pattern," he said, noting that the fires started between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m.
Firefighters found themselves traveling from one fire to another Thursday along the buttes after the first call for help, Vanevehoven said.
He and other fire chiefs managed the wildfires from the scene of the largest - a 25-acre blaze in the 8300 block of West Butte Road. The fire damaged one outbuilding, burned around one home and threatened two others.
About 30 firefighters in nine engines, three water tenders and one bulldozer responded from Butte, Colusa and Sutter counties to fight the fires.
Crews from Gridley and Oroville, the Sacramento River Fire Department of Colusa County, and Meridian Fire Department joined crews from the Sutter County, Pleasant Grove and Live Oak Fire departments, Vanevehoven said.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials and the California Department of Fish and Game also assisted.
A Pacific Gas & Electric Co. crew inspected several lightly burned poles, but Vanevehoven said there no downed power lines.
"We're fortunate that we didn't have any other fires (in the other counties)," he said, adding that crews would have had a much harder time containing the blazes.
Vanevehoven credited the Live Oak Fire Department with saving one structure at the largest fire on West Butte Road. The engine arrived just as the fire reached the building. Firefighters beat back the flames as other engines arrived to help, he said.
Down the road several hundred yards, the fire burned around one home, but damaged a lean-to structure.
Further south, fire crews put out a several-acre fire. A few hundred yards away, a third tiny fire burned itself out on a utility pole.
The fourth fire was on West Butte Road, a half-mile south of North Butte Road, he said.
Meanwhile, on Pass Road, which runs along the south side of the Sutter Buttes, several engines put out the fifth blaze in a field about 100 yards from a nearby home.
Appeal-Democrat reporter Daniel Witter can be reached at 749-4712. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.