Yesterday a federal jury convicted a homeless man, Steven Emory Butcher, of starting the Day Fire, which in 2006 burned over 160,000 acres in the Los Padres National Forest. The charges included willfully setting debris on fire in the forest and allowing a fire to escape from his control. The same jury also found him guilty of causing the 2002 Ellis Fire that burned about 70 acres in the same area.
The 49-year-old man faces up to 11 1/2 years in prison. The fire started in a remote area where Butcher camped for part of the year. It burned for four weeks through 254 square miles of chaparral and scattered pines in and around the Sespe Wilderness, a remote area with steep and rugged terrain. It destroyed 11 structures. The costs for suppression were over $73 million.
Strong winds in Texas, at times over 50 mph, have contributed to the spread of many fires. The state has put half the counties, 152 of them, under a burn ban. They have Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters on standby.
The Long Beach, California Press-Telegram has information about the fire on the island off the California coast last May which burned several structures, including one home:
“An Indiana man has been charged for allegedly starting the Santa Catalina Island fire in May, authorities said Tuesday.
Gary Dennis Hunt, 49, was charged with two felony counts in his arrest warrant: one for recklessly causing a fire to an inhabited structure and one for recklessly causing a fire to a structure or forest. Three Catalina Island addresses were listed in the counts.
According to the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, Hunt was a subcontractor working on the island. Despite posted signs about extreme fire danger and prohibition of open flames, he allegedly used an open-flame torch on May 10 to cut the cables on the island’s radio tower, Ambrose said.
That allegedly started the fire, which burned 4,750 acres and cost $5 million to fight.”
I have seen coal seam fires in Alaska that were started by lightning, but until today I had never heard of a “coal refuse fire”. Apparently they are pretty common in southeast Ohio where the Wayne National Forest has been dealing with this mostly underground, one-acre “Coal Dale” fire since October 29. Now they are saying it is out.
According to the Logan Daily News:
“Using heavy equipment, D.J. Group, Inc. from Beverly spread the burning coal debris out onto a previously stripped mined area where it was extinguished. Once the material cooled, the entire area was graded to its original condition. This spring the area will be reseeded and planted with trees native to the area.”