Sacramento man arrested for allegedly starting Shasta County wildfire

mzarate@sacbee.comJuly 12, 2014 

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials arrested a Sacramento man late Friday for allegedly sparking a Shasta County wildfire that has burned 2,930 acres and destroyed six buildings.

Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 37, was arrested at the origin of the Bully fire, which began Friday afternoon and caused the evacuation of 50 homes in Ono, southwest of Redding, said Daniel Berlant, Cal Fire spokesman.

The fire allegedly started when Smoke drove a large rental truck off-road and into an illegal marijuana grow site near Roaring Creek and Sargent roads, Berlant said. The truck’s exhaust ignited dry grass, he said.

Investigators found and detained Smoke near the site about 10 p.m. Friday. The Shasta County Marijuana Eradication Team seized more than 180 plants at the site. The rental truck was filled with soil, Berlant said.

In 2010, Cal Fire and the Shasta County Fire Department suppressed a 15-acre fire in the same area, caused by illegal debris burning, according to a Cal Fire news release. A suspect was not found and a marijuana grow site was discovered.

Smoke was arrested on suspicion of marijuana cultivation, throwing burning materials and starting the fire. He was booked into Shasta County jail.

More than 1,000 firefighters are battling the fire, which was 10 percent contained as of Saturday night.

No injuries have been reported and officials are assessing the extent of fire damage. Evacuated residents have returned to their homes, Berlant said.

Amid the drought, it is important to be careful when driving a vehicle over dry grass, he said.

“It doesn’t take much for a fire to spark when you’re being negligent,” he said.

Call The Bee’s Mozes Zarate at (916) 321-1054. Follow him on Twitter @mzarate139.

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