Four fires burned 5 acres of District 2 Supervisor Ray Nutting’s land on Nov. 22.
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Cal Fire responded to Nutting’s property on Happy Valley Road in Somerset at 5:01 p.m., said Cal Fire’s Teri Mizuhara. The four fires that were discovered burned about 5 acres of land before being contained at 9 p.m.
Nutting gave an account of the days leading up to the arrival of the fire departments.
He began burning Tuesday night, and “between about 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.,” Nutting wrote in an e-mail to the Mountain Democrat, and into Wednesday. Both days saw heavy rain. “Thursday, Adam Dyer and (Nutting’s son) Tyler consolidated piles.” At “about 10 p.m. I went out into the woods to check all the sites. One pile was still smoking.” Tyler and Dyer helped Nutting pull the burn apart and dump 15 gallons of water on it. They made a fire break with a Caterpillar tractor around the lower burn site.
“Friday morning about 8 a.m., I saw smoke at the top of the hill by the mobile home,” Nutting said. Dyer was burning up there on Wednesday. The three put out the burn and stayed until there was no more smoke. They “put a large ring around the spot.” The western burn pile was still smoking, so they put that out. All the sites seemed to be out, with no visible smoke at about 12:30 p.m., Nutting said, after four hours of watching. Kathleen Nelson and Pat Couch watched the fires as Nutting took his son and Dyer to Placerville.
“I returned at about 3 p.m. at which time I saw the smoke,” Nutting said. He “quickly” went up to the first site with about 20 gallons of water,”enough to put the outer edges of the fire out.” He did the same to the upper fire and was “able to put the outer edges of most of that fire out.”
At 5 p.m., Pioneer Fire arrived. Nutting went to the lower burn site and realized the west site needed attention. “My neighbor Shawn Travers and I were working on putting that out when Cal Fire approached me. It was at this time I knew it was under their control,” Nutting said. He “stepped aside and went home.”
Nutting noted it was very windy on Thursday and Friday.
“The wind started blowing sometime on Thursday and continued to blow faster through Friday. I would say that there was at times 50 mph winds,” Nutting said. Pioneer Battalion Chief Jack Daniels’ report had the winds at 15 to 25 mph on Saturday.
Couch and Sue Lyon helped with the fire. “As you can see I did everything possible not to let the event occur,” Nutting wrote. “I felt that the sites were safe and didn’t expect them to come back to life even with the fast winds.
“On Saturday I did a smoke check around the ranch and put out a couple of fires. On Sunday I put out another spot smoking. I go out every day and check.”
Damage was minimal, he wrote. “These fires were slow moving and only burned dead material laying on the ground.”
However, the fire report from Pioneer FD stated that the fire was “moving with the wind cross slope at a moderate rate of speed.”
“Nothing green burned,” Nutting wrote. “The only damage to the area was the Caterpillar I used and Cal Fire used. I will have to go back and water bar soil control. Flames on the lower part stayed near to the ground burning pine needles mostly. I had cut all the bush on the upper site mostly in piles. It was only that material which burned. There was no loss of trees on the west side and lower fire.”
The fire report noted that “several trees had fire in them as well.”
The cause of the fires is still under investigation. Cal Fire, Pioneer Fire, El Dorado County Fire, Rescue Fire and Latrobe Fire departments responded to the incident.
Nutting has been charged by both the District Attorney’s Office and a Grand Jury with filing false documents, failure to disclose income and having a financial interest in a county contract, in part in connection to grants from Cal Fire to clear land as a fire precaution. Cal Fire has been to Nutting’s property multiple times for burn piles that became out of control.