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Investigators look into origin of Bully Fire

By Colin Steiner, csteiner@krcrtv.com
Published On: Jul 13 2014 09:32:44 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 13 2014 09:59:09 PM CDT
ONO, Calif. -

The scene where authorities say the Bully Fire started was a busy one Sunday as crews worked to remove a moving truck from the area. Investigators believe the now destroyed truck ignited the fire.

CAL FIRE law enforcement, firefighters and a tow truck crew were on the property near Roaring Creek and Sarjent Roads.

The truck now sits in a burned marijuana field where CAL FIRE believes 37-year-old Freddie Smoke III started the fire on July 11th, using a 20 foot U-Haul truck to deliver fertilizer. Investigators say Smoke got the truck stuck, igniting dry grass.

On Sunday, it took tow truck crews well over an hour to get the destroyed U-Haul loaded and moved from the property, likely on its way to be held as evidence.

A day earlier, personnel took aerial photographs from a helicopter.

"As you know, many people were evacuated, there have been structures destroyed, there have been structures damaged, so it is a very unfortunate situation and it's very unfortunate that it's allegedly tied to an illegal marijuana cultivation," says CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Cheryl Buliavac.

Evacuation orders were lifted Saturday night and by Sunday many people had returned to their properties.

Along Platina Road the rubble of an outbuilding lay on the ground. Up a dirt road on the same property, a home was completely destroyed.

Further west on Platina Road, resident Deana Beery-Howard was lucky to have her home still standing.

Asked whether she thought many of her neighbors were operating illegal marijuana gardens, she replied, "Well I know, probably most of them are," Beery-Howard said.

As for the alleged actions of a man causing so much damage, Beery-Howard is coming from a place of forgiveness.

"Well, I don't feel angry at him but I feel like he was really stupid. I mean, a lot of people who live back here do foolish things so, no, I don't have that anger. Maybe later because I haven't even cried yet I'm just numb to it."

A foolish mistake or not, Smoke's alleged actions have him charged with recklessly causing a fire and marijuana cultivation, both felonies.

According to the Shasta County Sheriff's Office, Smoke posted bail and was released from the Shasta County Jail at 2 a.m. Sunday.