Feds: Illegal campfire or cigarette was source of Angora fire | SierraSun.com

Feds: Illegal campfire or cigarette was source of Angora fire

Emma Garrard/Sierra SunBeth Brady, a fire investigator for U.S. Forest Service, walks under the tape at the point of origin for the Angora Fire Tuesday afternoon.

A campfire or lit cigarette at a designated camp site was the cause of the Angora fire, a federal investigator disclosed exclusively to the Tahoe Daily Tribune Friday afternoon.

Any suspicions of arson as the cause of the Angora fire were said to be false.

A federal official speaking on the basis of anonymity said a campfire was located at the point of origin, as were cigarette butts. It may take weeks, if ever, for investigators to determine whether the campfire or a discarded cigarette was the direct cause of the damaging wildfire.

Reported at around 2 p.m. Sunday, the fire started at the north end of Angora Park near a campsite.

This area does not have designated campsites

The federal investigator said no suspects have been identified, and were unable to determine whether the fire was started by Tahoe residents or visitors.

Angora Park, a popular summer destination four miles from the shores of Lake Tahoe, features several trails and more than 60 campsites.

The conflagration, which is at 70-plus percent containment as of Friday afternoon, has burned 3,100 acres, destroyed or damaged 254 homes but did not take a single life.

The federal investigator said a reward has not been offered for the capture of whoever started the fire because it appears to have been done without criminal intent.

Federal investigators also have no current plans to prosecute.

Five years ago Tuesday, a discarded cigarette butt was blamed for igniting a fire beneath the gondola of Heavenly Mountain Resort, which spread to 672 acres before it was extinguished. Officials were not able to identify the careless smoker.

In May, a prosecutor asked for the death penalty for a man accused of igniting the Esperanza wildfire near Palm Springs, Calif. The man, an arsonist, set the fires on purpose using wooden matches and Marlboro cigarettes. The blaze killed five firefighters.

Fire officials on Friday morning began sending home some of the 2,400 firefighters dispatched from across the state as containment of the wildfire approached 75 percent in spite of Friday morning winds.

The blaze is expected to be completely contained by Tuesday.

Many residents were allowed inside the danger zone, at their own risk, to examine their homes Friday afternoon in the Angora fire footprint that were deemed controlled.

Evacuations are expected to remain in effect until 8 a.m. Saturday for the Fallen Leaf Lake area.

A public meeting to discuss the fire is planned at 8 p.m. tonight at South Tahoe Middle School. It is being hosted by the incident command team.

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