PETALUMA (CBS SF) — A carelessly discarded cigarette tossed from vehicle on Highway 101 was the likely source of a firestorm that roared through a Petaluma neighborhood, destroying four homes, damaging nine others and causing $1.5 million in damages, authorities announced Thursday.
“Our investigators followed the burn patterns back to the edge of the freeway and found cigarette butts we believe are the cause of the fire,” Petaluma Acting Battalion Chief Chad Costa said.
The Tuesday fire started around 3:15 p.m. in grass along the northbound side of Highway 101 north of the Lakeville Highway on-ramp. It then spread to eucalyptus trees along the highway and into the backyards of houses on Stuart Drive.
A second and third alarm were called soon after as the Petaluma Fire Department requested assistance from Cal Fire and neighboring agencies.
In the end, a total of 22 fire units – including 16 from agencies outside Petaluma – and a Cal Fire helicopter assisted in controlling the fire. It took approximately an hour for it to be brought under control and another three hours for the homes involved to be completely extinguished.
No firefighters were injured in the incident. While many residents were home at the time of the fire, only two people suffered minor injuries that were treated at the scene.
One cat was killed when it became trapped in one of the houses that was destroyed.
The Red Cross provided services to the residents of the four homes that were destroyed. PG&E also responded and worked into the night to restore gas and electricity to homes that were still inhabitable.