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No Charges For Target Shooter Who Sparked Fire On Mount Diablo

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An aerial view of the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. (R. Drew)

An aerial view of the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo. (R. Drew)

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CLAYTON (CBS SF) — Contra Costa County prosecutors said Wednesday that they will not file charges against the person who sparked a fire that burned more than 3,100 acres in and around Mount Diablo State Park in September.

The Morgan Fire started around 1 p.m. on Sept. 8 on a family-owned property on Morgan Territory Road in unincorporated Clayton, where the person was shooting a rifle at targets set up on the property, according to the district attorney’s office.

One of the bullets struck a rock, which caused a spark and started a fire in a patch of dry grass. The shooter, a male whose name has not been released, tried to extinguish the fire but was unable to do so, prosecutors said.

He then contacted a family member who dialed 911. Firefighters responded and initially contained the blaze to half an acre, but vegetation then ignited about 1,000 feet away and the fire eventually grew into a massive blaze that wasn’t contained until Sept. 14.

Prosecutors said the shooter had practiced at the range numerous times previously without problems.

“There is no evidence the fire was intentionally started. There is no evidence that the use of the involved rifle or ammunition in that area was in violation of state law,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.

“There is no evidence that this particular phenomenon had occurred before in that area, or with this particular individual. There is little evidence that someone would know or should know that a discharged projectile would or could cause a fire in this way,” the statement said.

The Morgan Fire prompted the evacuation of about 75 homes and damaged trails and structures in the state park. Cal Fire officials said the blaze cost more than $4.5 million in resources.

The statement said, “Given the sheer number of times firearms have been discharged in this area and in similar areas throughout the state without causing a fire, it is the determination of this office that no criminal liability can be attached to the cause and origin of this fire.”

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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