BUTTE COUNTY (CBS SF) — Cal Fire law enforcement officers announced on Wednesday that they have arrested a man suspected of starting the still growing Ponderosa Fire outside of Oroville, according to authorities.
Cal Fire issued a press release that stated 29-year-old Oroville resident John Ballenger was taken into custody on Tuesday on suspicion of causing the wildfire that has grown to over 3,100 acres as of Wednesday evening.
According to Cal Fire law enforcement, Ballenger is suspected of recklessly starting a campfire outside a designated campground and allowing it to get out of control. The fire was reported to Cal Fire’s emergency command center in Oroville at Tuesday afternoon at about 1:11 p.m.
So far, the fire has destroyed ten residences and 20 outbuildings while causing damage to five residences and ten outbuildings. Evacuations remain in effect for the communities of Feather Falls, Berry Creek, Brush Creek and Mountain House. The area includes Oro-Quincy Highway from Foreman Creek north to Mountain House and all tributaries including Bald Rock Road. Berry Creek resident are advised to evacuate south from Berry Creek to the Oroville area.
Evacuation Centers have been set up at the Church of the Nazarene at 2238 Monte Vista Avenue in Oroville and the Ponderosa Community Center at 17103 Ponderosa Way in Brownsville, according to Cal Fire. Lumpkin Road remains closed between Forbestown Road and Mill Road.
A total of 1,176 fire personnel are currently battling the Ponderosa Fire with 107 engines and 10 helicopters providing air support.