Suspicious fires torch garage

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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No one was injured in a pair of suspicious fires that torched a patch of bamboo and a detached garage housing a boat Thursday evening, according to Fire Chief Dave Whitt. The two fires took place about 250 feet apart from each other in an alley off Seventh Street between A and B streets in less than an hour’s time, according to witnesses. About $15,000 in damages was reported, according to Whitt, who said the first fire was called in at about 9:30. The garage and boat – a Mark Twain that was in the restoration process – were each a total loss, said David Lee Seagers, who was at the house playing Yahtzee when the blaze broke out. The cause of the fires is officially listed as undetermined without being able to rule out a human cause, Whitt said Friday. “Anytime we have fires that are basically not connected in just a short span of time in the same geographic region, it causes us some concern,” Whitt said. The initial fire, which took place in bamboo along a low clay wall, burned into several feet of organic buildup in the roots of the bamboo, according to Whitt. Firefighters had to douse the area with foam to keep the heat from reigniting nearby grass. The first fire also melted a power line, and PG&E crews were just leaving the area when a man ran down the street and alerted firefighters to the second blaze. The garage went up fast, with flames reaching 10-12 feet above the roof, according to Whitt and Seagers. “It was fully engulfed,” said Shelby Hinton, who was also at the house when the fire started. Neighbors scrambled for their garden hoses as the fire department responded to the new threat. “Our biggest concern was that the fire was so intense, it melted power lines,” Whitt said. One power line was brought down near the house, and firefighters had to keep clear, lest they risk being electrocuted, Whitt said. The fire was kept from spreading to the house due to the fact that the garage was a separate building, winds were calm and the firefighters were so nearby, Whitt said. Despite their small size, the fires required what Whitt referred to as a typical response – both of Lincoln’s fire engines as well as one each from Calfire and Rocklin. The engine from Rocklin was brought up to protect the city while the other crews were fighting the fires and did respond to at least one medical aid call, according to Whitt. Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at