Despite the nearly constant presence of smoke from raging wildfires to our North and constant messages of caution from local fire professionals it appears the cause of two recent fires has been attributed to “improperly discarded smoking material.”
News that a Sunday night blaze at the Lafayette Reservoir and a $1.1 million blaze at the Camelback Apartments in Pleasant Hill the following night were both the result of discarded cigarettes has shocked some, confused many, but probably comes as no consolation to people losing their homes to the latest resulting fire.
This site first reported the presence of a smoky blaze at the Lafayette Reservoir on Sunday, as fire consumed much of the Napa and Sonoma valleys, and gusting winds drew smoke and ash from those fires South into the 24/680.
We were on fire watch that night as dozens of readers were awakened by the smell of drift smoke and contacted us for details on any local blazes. Firefighters responding to a blaze eventually reported at the reservoir found less than an acre of scrub and brush on fire and were able to extinguish the fire, but not before it sent up a plume of smoke adding to the already potent mix.
Investigators determined the fire had been caused by a discarded cigarette the next day, Monday, hours before another improperly discarded cigarette ignited cardboard at the Camelback Apartments on Camelback Rd. in Pleasant Hill – a cluster of town homes popular with students attending Diablo Valley Junior College.
The resulting fire quickly grew to 2-alarms, consumed several apartments and displaced more than 20 people. Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Capt. George Laing said the fire was sparked on a second floor landing when a cigarette landed amid some cardboard and eventually caused $1.1 million in damage to the structures and contents.
An improperly discarded cigarette was also blamed for a nearly unprecedented, 3-alarm structure fire at Lafayette Circle and Whitten Lane in July, an office cluster housing the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, La Finestra restaurant as well as nine other local businesses – all of them lost to the fire.