Meteor investigated as cause of Nevada County structure fire | SierraSun.com
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Meteor investigated as cause of Nevada County structure fire

Firefighters work to extinguish the flames of a working structure fire Friday evening off of Englebright Reservoir. Witnesses say they saw a meteor flash near where the fire started.
Provided/Annita Kasparian via The Union

Authorities on Monday continued to investigate whether a meteor was the cause of a working structure fire that resulted in the complete loss of a home and the death of a dog Friday evening off of Englebright Reservoir.

Witnesses in the area said they saw a bright, blue ball of light streak across the sky, prompting them to turn off of the highway to see if what appeared to be a meteor could be located.

“When I first saw it, I thought it was a shooting star,” Oroville’s Evita Nieves said. “It was a big ball and it was on fire.”



Nieves and her husband were returning home from playing disc golf in Penn Valley when they witnessed the incident off Highway 20, near Mooney Flat Road.

“Finally my husband turns around as it hits, he notices smoke, and he records on his phone,” Nieves said.



The Nieves’ posted the video to Facebook, which has since been viewed thousands of times.

In the footage, the couple comes across a working structure fire off the 12000 block of Englebright Dam Road in Smartsville.

“I did not know what we were going to find,” Nieves said. “I had no clue it was our friend’s house.”

In a report from KCRA 3 in Sacramento, Dustin Procita was identified as the man whose home was hit by the possible meteorite. Procita told KCRA 3 that he was alone inside the home at the time of the incident and was able to save one of his two dogs.

Firefighters work to extinguish the flames of a working structure fire Friday evening off of Englebright Reservoir. Witnesses say they saw a meteor flash near where the fire started.
Provided/Annita Kasparian via The Union

“That house was completely involved with crazy fire,” Nieves said.

Nieves noted that even after the fire was extinguished, a blue light emanated from underneath the porch of the home.

“It was glowing underneath the house. It wasn’t in flames anymore, but it was still hot,” Nieves said. “A kid on the property noticed a blue light under the house. It was late and cold, and insane. I thought no one is going to believe this.”

Though the Nieves’ and other eyewitness accounts of the incident sound far-fetched, officials with the Penn Valley Fire Protection District aren’t ready to rule out the possibility that a meteorite ignited the structure. The district continued with the investigation into the fire’s cause Monday.

“It is one potential cause, although very, very rare,” Clayton Thomas, with Penn Valley Fire Protection District, said. “My job as an investigator is to apply the scientific process to the scene and not exclude any evidence that it wasn’t possible.”

Thomas added that the department is reviewing all available resources and has reached out to NASA and neighboring Beale Air Force Base for potential data.

“We have not found anything that indicates a meteor at this point. At this stage in the investigation, it certainly would be premature to identify a meteorite as a cause,” Thomas said, adding that the fire protection district was working to finish up its investigation on the matter Monday.

But Nieves and the witnesses the couple said they talked to said they know what they saw.

“When we first got there, we asked (Procita) what caused it,” Nieves said. “He said, ‘A meteor, a freakin’ meteor!’ All those people that were there, we were shocked, they were shaken up, we were shaken up.”

According to the Los Angeles Times, NASA reported a meteor shower above California around the time of the fire on Friday night.

“There are numerous reports on the American Meteor Society website of a fireball seen last evening in the Pacific states at 7:28 PM,” the agency wrote on its Facebook page. The fireball was traveling around 32,000 mph, NASA said.

NASA said the meteor spotted over California was not part of the Taurid meteor shower, which was also spotted in California recently, the Los Angeles Times reported.

To contact Managing Editor Elias Funez email, efunez@theunion.com or call 530-47-4230.


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