A member of an inmate firefighting crew works on the Bully fire near Ono, Calif., on July 11, 2014. (Greg Barnette, The Record Searchlight)

Suspected cause of California wildfire is man driving truck to pot grow

REDDING, Calif. — Authorities believe a Northern California wildfire allegedly was sparked by the exhaust from a truck driven by a man delivering supplies to an illegal marijuana plot.

Marijuana grower suspected of causing Northern California wildfire
A booking photo of Freddie Alexander Smoke III, who was arrested Saturday July 13, 2014, and accused of recklessly causing a fire and marijuana cultivation, both felonies, according to the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection. (Shasta County Sheriff’s Department/The Associated Press)

Freddie Alexander Smoke III, 27, of Sacramento was arrested Saturday for investigation of recklessly causing a fire and illegally cultivating marijuana, according to the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.

The so-called Bully fire has burned 6 square miles, or 4,000 acres, of forested land in Shasta County and destroyed 18 structures, CalFire officials said. The fire, burning in steep terrain, was just 15 percent contained Sunday morning.

The agency says he was delivering material to the pot site in Shasta County when the exhaust from his truck ignited dry grass.

More than 1,700 firefighters, aided by aircraft, battled the blaze in hot, dry conditions.

The wildfire had prompted evacuations and road closures, but CalFire said all residents have been allowed to return home.

Still, the fire is threatening 15 homes and about 50 other structures.

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In Solano County, a grass fire prompted evacuations in Fairfield and temporarily shut down Highway 12 in both directions. By 4 p.m. residents were allowed back to their homes and most lanes had reopened, officials said.

In Central California, firefighters made gains and contained 55 percent of a wildfire that burned more than 2 square miles (1,450 acres) of remote wilderness in the Sequoia National Forest, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

The forest where the fire started is south of and separate from the Sequoia National Park east of Fresno, which is famous for its giant Sequoia trees.

This story was first published on DenverPost.com