Authorities: Cigarette butt sparked Lanes Fire

August 11, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
Cal Fire says the "Lanes Fire" began when someone threw a cigarette butt into the brush along the Four Lanes.

The fire burned about a mile north of Highway 168 and Lodge Road. Cal Fire reported that 138 acres had burned by Sunday morning.

People living along Beal Fire Road remain evacuated from their homes, but are expected to be allowed to return around 2 p.m. Sunday, according to a Cal Fire spokesperson. The spokesperson also said 11 firefighters had been treated for heat-related illness by Sunday morning.

By Sunday morning the fire was 30% contained, but 40 structures were still threatened. 31 fire engines and more than 500 personnel were at the scene, according to a Cal Fire media release.

On Saturday night the Four Lanes partially reopened, but Cal Trans is only allowing two lanes of travel up and down the highway.

While the fire is mostly under control, fire crews still had a lot of work ahead of them.

Crews say the first flames were spotted around 12:30 Saturday afternoon. Within the hour air tankers and helicopters began dropping fire retardant and water to control the blaze.

"Fire fighters are facing a lot of challenges today. The heat has been really hard on them. And steep, rocky terrain has been really tough to get in there fight the fire aggressively," Adan Orozco of Fresno Cal Fire said.

Fresno Cal Fire says crews from all over the Central Valley rushed to the four lane to help in the fire fight. For a few of them the triple digit heat became too much.

"We did have somewhere about half a dozen fire fighters who had a little bit of heat stress," Orozco said.

Paramedics were on hand to help treat those fire fighters.

"It's still really hard, especially when temperatures were about 110 like they were today," Orozco said.

As crews worked in the steep terrain traffic along the four lane was diverted. Many who were heading into the mountains to escape the heat pulled over after they ran into the roadblock.

"At first I was a bit desperate saying 'oh no, all my plans, it's too far to go back.' but then I realized there's a detour," Chris Thiel of La Canada said.

Drivers who still wanted to make their way up or down the mountain were forced to take a longer and winding drive on a back road.

"Something was happening. We come around the corner and see the traffic stopped. That's when they sent us down Old Tollhouse Road," Shelton Autry of Fresno said.

"It's alright, just a little inconvenience to go all the way around," Al Rafanan of Selma said.

Cal Fire is blaming a discarded cigarette butt for sparking the fire. They say the dry and hot conditions helped spread the flames.

"That's what we'll see this summer with our dry conditions, is fire spreading fast and quickly in Fresno County," John Dominguez of Cal Fire said.

Fire officials say if they catch the person responsible for starting the fire with their cigarette they could face a misdemeanor, fines and the cost of the entire fire fight.


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