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Burning Cigarette Sparks 15-acre Fire Near Previtali Road in Amador County

By Raheem Hosseini

A single cigarette was thought to be responsible for sparking a vegetation fire at Previtali Road along Highway 88 in Jackson on Thursday afternoon, charring 15 acres before fire crews gained control.

Witnesses driving along Highway 88 called in the minor blaze around 2 p.m., which California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention spokeswoman Terry Mizuhara said was most likely caused by a cigarette discarded on the roadway. CDF investigators didn´t believe the person who caused the fire had any criminal intent to do so and witnesses didn´t report seeing anyone in the area.

“Had somebody actually admitted (tossing the cigarette), we would have charged him with starting the fire,” said Mizuhara. Doing so would involve cost recovery for the damage that was caused by the fire.

Amador Fire Protection District and CDF crews were able to corral the fire around 4:30 p.m., which burned in an uphill direction on private lands. A portion of Highway 88 was closed off as fire crews dealt with the fire.

A woman whose house is located just off the highway near Previtali Road returned home from the post office just in time to watch the fire eat its way toward her home. The unfazed woman said afterward that it was the third fire she´s seen in this spot during her 20 years at that location.

Mizuhara said it was lucky the fire happened last Thursday rather than this week, with winds beginning to pick up a bit.

The California Highway Patrol recently released a new telephone number for people to report those commuters who toss lit cigarettes out of car windows: (800) TELL CHP. When officers available in the area hear the dispatch and see the reported vehicle, they can conduct a traffic stop to issue a warning, but can only issue a citation if they themselves witness the infraction.

If CHP officers are unable to locate the vehicle, the information is relayed to the registered owner´s regional CHP office, followed by the issuance of a letter to the registered owner informing him/her that the infraction was witnessed and reported.

If the CHP receives repeated calls regarding the same vehicle committing violations at the same time and place, officers may set up and wait near the location where the problem is occurring in order to catch the violator and issue a citation, stated a CHP media release. Tossing a burning cigarette onto the road is a misdemeanor and a citable offense for which fines can be imposed of up to $1,000.

Reprinted with permission: Amador Ledger Dispatch Amador Ledger Dispatch