Police determined that one of the 12 wildfires running paths of destruction across California was allegedly ignited by arson. The wildfire is known as the “King Fire” and is increasing in size at the rampant rate of 4,000 acres every 12 hours just northeast of San Francisco, according to NBC.
“There are a lot of firefighters saying that this fire is producing fire conditions unlike anything that they have ever seen,” said California Fire Battalion Chief Joe Tyler. “It’s creating its own weather overhead. Just the tinder-dry fuel conditions are igniting fuels every time — brush or timber — every time an ember drops on the ground,”
The King Fire, El Dorado County’s largest wildfire in 20 years, is said to have been intentionally set by Wayne Allen Huntsman, 37. Huntsman was arrested for arson on Wednesday, Sept. 18.
The El Dorado county sheriff’s office has yet to release a statement on what led them to believe Huntsman deliberately instigated the blaze.
The alleged arsonist, indicted on a $10 million bail, has previously been convicted of grand theft, assault with a deadly weapon, driving under the influence and the receiving of stolen property in 1997.
Doug Floyd, a retired heavy construction carpenter seeking refuge at the Red Cross evacuation site, told the New York Times that
“they ought to put [Huntsman] in a helicopter and drop him onto the fire.”
As of now, there has been no definitive answer to the motive behind the arson. Tami Criswell, Huntsman’s sister, said she has doubts Huntsman started the fire. She added if he did start it, she did not think it was an intentional act.
According to USA Today, the fire efforts cost over $5 million each day. Approximately 5,000 fire personnel have been on the scene every day since the fire’s radical surge, with help coming from as far away as Alaska and Florida, according to Associated Press.
As of Sunday, Sept. 21, the flames had ignited over 80,000 acres, spanning El Dorado and Pacer counties in Northern California, according the National Weather Channel. It has caused the evacuation of over 3,000 people from their homes.
With over 203,000 gallons of water being dropped over the inferno daily, the fire still remains only 10 percent contained.
“That’s what makes it difficult for a direct attack,” fire spokesman Mike McMillian told USA Today. “The main fuel that is burning is the tall timber. We’re making some progress, but it is slow going in some areas as we’re trying to construct more contingency and control lines.”
No official consensus on the overall structural damage has been reached yet due to the dangerous conditions preventing assessment. However, fire information officer Capt. Tom Piranio reported that 10 residences and 22 outbuildings were lost in the fire.
The hydroelectric power lines that supply energy sources for the Sacramento region and some Sierra Nevada regions are at risk. The University of California, Berkeley research station also lies in the line fire. According to ABC, 21,000 other structures remain threatened by the flames.
The smoke from the fire has made the air quality unsafe for areas across northern California, even reaching into some areas of Nevada.
“I can tell you that, hands-down, after talking to fire professionals from around the state, that these are unprecedented conditions,” said Ken Pimlott, executive director of the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The drought this year in California is coupled with some of the highest temperatures in the state’s history. The King Fire is said to have lost fuel due to cooler, cloudier conditions. However, state fire spokeswoman Lynne Tolmachoff, told USA Today 30 mph wind gusts are expected and will push the fire south.
Editor’s Note: Information from USA Today, the New York Times, NBC and ABC was used in this report.