Arson caused 49 Fire

Cal Fire offering $10,000 reward for information leading to arrest
By: Jenifer Gee Journal Staff Writer
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Arson caused the 49 Fire that burned more than 60 homes and businesses in Auburn and caused more than $40 million in loss, Cal Fire officials said Monday. During an afternoon press conference in Auburn, Cal Fire Unit Chief Brad Harris said that investigators ruled out any other cause of the fire. He said because the investigation is ongoing he could not reveal any suspect information or many of the details surrounding the case. No suspects have been arrested, Harris said. “We take arson very seriously and we will aggressively pursue this,” Harris said. Harris said that two different vegetation fires were started the day of the fire, Aug. 30. The first fire was started at about 2:22 p.m. near the intersection of Highway 49 and Rock Creek Road. About 20 minutes later, a second fire was started near Quartz Drive about a quarter-mile east of the first fire site. Harris said the second fire “added a new dimension to an already devastating fire.” The announcement came a little over a month after the fire destroyed homes and businesses in North Auburn. “We went through a lengthy investigation process and when it came down to the final cause it was arson,” Harris said. Listing the cause as arson rules out any other possible causes, including earlier reports that the fire started near a Pacific Gas & Electric Company utility pole. Harris said PG&E’s involvement in the investigation was a “tremendous help.” PG&E spokesman Brian Swanson said the company is committed to helping local emergency crews. “As with any emergency it’s important for PG&E to work closely with emergency response personnel,” Swanson said. “Our first priority is always to make the scene safe and in situations like the 49 Fire it’s also important for us to fully support the investigation in anyway we can.” Swanson added that company representatives were present in Auburn in the days after the fire and were assisting the county in its efforts to help victims rebuild. Placer Deputy District Attorney Scott Owens said he could not comment on the possible charges facing the person or persons responsible, as it would compromise the investigation. Harris encouraged anyone who witnessed where the fire started to call Cal Fire’s arson hotline at (800) 468-4408. The state fire agency is offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the parties responsible. Barbara and Skip Koski, who lost their home in the blaze, attended the press conference. They said afterward that they were happy the investigation was continuing but that it still didn’t change what happened. “You can’t bring back any of the stuff, but the information is good,” Barbara Koski said. “It makes you feel better.” Jenifer Gee can be reached at ---------- 49 Fire by the numbers Total loss: $40 million Homes destroyed: 63 Businesses destroyed: 2 Acres burned: 350 Private vehicles burned: 41 Commercial vehicles burned: 27 Outbuildings destroyed: 24 Trailers destroyed: 13 Homes damaged: 18 Businesses damaged: 14 ----------