Tony Reed
Del Norte Triplicate

Sheriff’s investigators believe a series of fires set near Gasquet were arson and are aggressively looking for information leading to a suspect.

Gasquet Fire Department Chief Nick Karanopoulos reported just after noon Saturday his department was summoned to an area along Siskiyou Fork Road, about 10 miles from Gasquet, for a report of smoke in the area. Firefighters arrived to find several small fires burning along a half-mile of road.

“One was just under half an acre,” Karanopoulos said, noting others were burning in rotten stumps and brush.

Firefighters spent about six hours on the fires, with help from Crescent City Fire and Rescue and a CAL FIRE helicopter, which flew over the area and nearby drainages to look for other fires.

On Sunday night, Gasquet firefighters returned to the area, and found a similar situation along Little Jones Creek Road.

Karanopoulos said multiple trees were burning, along with two fires of an acre and a half-acre in size. Gasquet Fire Department got help from Crescent City Fire and Rescue, Fort Dick Fire Department, and a crew from Alder Conservation Camp.

Karanopoulos said the nearest structures to each fire were about 200 yards and about a mile, respectively. He said the weather was mild with a light wind, which worked in firefighters’ favor.

“We’re not super dry like some of the inland areas,” he said. “These fires move fast in light fuels, but when they slow when they hit the heavy timber.”

Karanopoulos called it lucky the higher humidity and low wind were present.

He said it’s concerning to think someone was willing to set multiple fires. However, he added it’s fortunate Gasquet is a small community, and its fire department has the fastest response times in the county.

Karanopoulos said Monday his firefighters had been going most of the weekend and were quite tired after battling a fire until 4 a.m. Monday.

“These were more than ‘suspicious,’” said Sheriff’s Cmdr. Bill Steven. “These were outright arson.”

Steven said the fires were obviously set and the arsonist apparently tried to block access to the area by dragging trees and obstacles into the roadway. At the end of the road, investigators found a Subaru station wagon reported stolen from Ashland, Oregon.

“The windows were rolled up and the doors were locked with the keys in the ignition,” Steven said, noting the area where the car was found would not be accessible with a two-wheel-drive vehicle. Steven said it’s possible the arsonist may still be in the area, possibly camping in the remote woods.

Sheriff’s investigators want to hear from anyone who saw anything suspicious in the above areas over the weekend. Call 707-464-4191 with any information.

21738731