State park ranger asks mountain bikers help to catch arsonist

Firefighters in Santa Cruz County have fought over a dozen human-caused fires along the Highway 9 corridor over the past month, and officials are asking the local mountain bike community to be especially vigilant for suspicious characters who may be intentionally setting these fires.

Henry Cowell State Park Ranger Gary Brennan sent a note to the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz asking cyclists and other trail users to look out for fires in the area. He says, “Henry Cowell State Park has been the site of over 12 vegetation fires. Investigators have examined all of these fires and determined that while several different causes were to blame, all were human caused. Some were intentionally set, some were the result of accidents but a majority were the result of illegal campfires left unattended.”

“I know none of your mountain bikers use the area,” he says with a nudge and a wink regarding the popular poached trails in the state park, “but we need all of the eyes we can get to catch the person or persons responsible for the fires. Report anything that is unusual such as illegal campsites in the park, individuals
starting fires or acting suspiciously.”

Brennan asks that you call the arson tip line at (800) 468-4408 if you know anything about a possible arson fire. If you see a fire that is out of control or you see someone setting a fire, immediately call 911.

The fires so far have been relatively small, though challenging to fight because of the rugged terrain in this area. On Tuesday, fire crews staged at Twin Gates on Empire Grade Road, drove as far as they could on the Chinquapa Fire Road towards Pogonip, then hiked through poison oak with their fire fighting gear to fight the blaze creeping uphill from Highway 9. The steep terrain combined with an especially dry year in this area and a heavy fuel load can quickly lead to a catastrophic fire.

H/T to Mr Toad.

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