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Hunt Fire contained, 600 acres charred

A Stockton man has been cited for causing Calaveras County´s latest large wildfire.

Firefighters hadn´t even finished mopping up the county´s three huge fires from last weekend when they were called to another battle with flames; this time off Highway 4 near the Circle XX subdivision.

The Hunt Fire broke out at 5:11 p.m., Tuesday, at the end of Kaiser Canyon Road, started by sparks from a metal grinder being used by Charles Prater, 64, of Stockton, who owns the property, said Rommie Jones, fire investigator for the California Department of Forestry.

The fire consumed 600 acres before it was contained Thursday afternoon. Control was expected by 6 p.m. Friday.

Prater was working on some steel for his barn, Jones said. While Prater had adequate clearance around the work site, he had no source of water and was cited for that, along with a misdemeanor charge for starting the blaze.

Jones said anyone using machinery under such conditions in the wildland needs to have clearance, a shovel and water “and that´s more than just a bucket of water.”

Water must be available from a pressurized source, such as a hose or even a tank worn on the person´s back.

The blaze quickly spread toward Circle XX through steep terrain covered with dense, dry brush. About 40 people were evacuated from Circle XX at 6 p.m., Tuesday, but were allowed back to their homes at 8:30 p.m.

Prater faces a number of fines and possible jail sentence or probation, Jone said, and could be charged for costs of fighting the fire, estimated at least $500,000 on Thursday.

About 290 personnel were involved in the firefight at its peak along with two air tankers and seven helicopters. A contracted water tender rolled over Tuesday night. There were no injuries but the vehicle sustained $25,000 in damage.

Many of those called to this incident were fresh off the Calaveras Complex Fires in Copperopolis, Sheep Ranch and near Avery.

Those blazes are now all fully contained.

Welcome words were heard over the emergency services radio Thursday morning as firefighters announced the command center at the Calaveras County Fairgrounds was being disbanded and engines were returning to their own districts throughout the state.

Calaveras Enterprise story by Craig Koscho. For more Calaveras news, click: calaverasenterprise.com