NEW UPDATE: Fire that burned five Roseville homes was arson
What had all the earmarks of a minor grass fire quickly spun into a serious emergency for Roseville firefighters Friday, sweeping fierce flames through the city’s oak woodlands and setting a number of homes ablaze.
The fire was contained by Saturday and on Monday investigators confirmed the danger, damaged homes and destroyed property can be chalked up to arson.
A home burglary may also have ties to the fire.
The incident started around 2:20 p.m. Initial witnesses reported it as two separate fires in the wooded fields behind Maidu Regional Park. One of the hot spots was quickly extinguished by arriving firefighters; the other was spread by the wind, blowing into high, arching flames through the oak trees.
Roseville firefighters worked to control the situation, though winds allowed the burning lines of fire to jump the creek and move toward homes on McLaren Drive and Outrigger Court. Roseville fire engines sped to the area, working on structure protection. A group of onlookers was suddenly enveloped in a cloud of black smoke. Firefighters were forced to yell at pedestrians to clear the street as the fire spread to several homes and yards on McLaren Drive.
Residents and neighbors scrambled to help firefighters save the houses. David Wybarreta, who lives at 2350 McLaren, was compelled to protect his roof from a hail of flaming embers landing on it.
“I was heading over to help my neighbor save his house, and then I turned and saw all this smoke here,” Wybarreta told the Press Tribune. “I hit the embers on my roof with my garden hose, but I couldn’t stop the flames from going in my yard — and my trees took a beating.”
A total of five houses in the neighborhood caught fire, forcing residents to evacuate from the corner of Chippendale Way and Thistledown Drive.
Roseville Fire called for mutual aid from surrounding agencies. Rocklin Fire, Loomis Fire, CAL FIRE and other agencies arrived to help battle the flames. Air support arrived from Sac Metro Fire.
The city of Roseville has reported five structures burned and 30 acres of land scorched.
Around 80 firefighters stayed around the fire's perimeter throughout Friday night and Saturday morning, making sure containment was finalized. Roseville Fire officials said several hot spots did flare up into new flames during the dark hours, but were quickly knocked down.
On Monday, city officials announced a joint investigation by local and state fire investigators has concluded the fire is a criminal matter.
"Fire investigators from the Roseville Fire Department and Cal Fire have determined the June 21 fire ... was intentionally set," Roseville Public Information Officer Brian Jacobson said. "And it is being classified as arson."
A thief also appears to have taken advantage of the chaos and evacuations.
"We received one report, from a resident of Bremerton Court, that a laptop computer was missing from his house," said Roseville police spokeswoman Dee Dee Gunther. "It happened sometime during the time frame of the fire."
The Roseville Press Tribune had the first reporters on-scene.