Officials refuse to release cause of Center Fire

Four months ago in Big Pine, some twenty families and individuals lost everything they had – homes, possessions, pets – when the Center Fire swept down from the foothills of the Sierra and destroyed bigpinefirehomes in the west part of Big Pine.  Today, many of those victims think it’s past time to confirm the official cause of that devastating fire.

We called CalFire, the agency in charge of the fire investigation, and learned that Captain Jack Markle conducted the inquiry into the fire.  CalFire Public Information Officer, Bill Peters, said Captain Markle was unavailable.  However, Peters then spoke with Markle and reported to Sierra Wave that as of July first, the Inyo District Attorney had not finished reviewing the case for possible prosecution.

Peters said Captain Markle would not be able to release any information until approval from the DA is received.  Peters said he could not even tell us when the report went to the DA from CalFire.  We placed a call to the District Attorney’s Office.  The woman who answered the phone said DA Art Maillet was on vacation.  We asked to leave a message for another DA lawyer, Will Richmond, about the Big Pine Fire.  He did not return our calls.

We pressed CalFire’s Bill Peters for at least the official cause of the fire as public information.  He declined.  In March, after the fire, Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, Terry McAteer said that the fire did start at the Bernasconi Center above Big Pine.

McAteer explained that an Alcoholics Anonymous group, the Carson Valley Men’s Group, came to stay at the center the week of the fire.  He said the AA group brought a metal fire pit to start a warming fire.  McAteer said at that point there was no wind and then the group thought their fire was out.  The afternoon of the Center Fire, the wind came up and apparently re-ignited that blaze.  Two people tried to put it out but the fire took off down the hill toward Big Pine.

Until CalFire or the DA responds, it is unknown if CalFire confirmed the School Superintendent’s report as the official cause of the Center Fire and that this is what the District Attorney is reviewing for possible charges.  Meanwhile, fire survivors try to rebuild their lives and hop to know for sure what caused their loss.


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5 Responses to Officials refuse to release cause of Center Fire

  1. Rob July 11, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    We need to be told the official cause of the fire was the Carson Valley Men’s Alcoholics Anonymous group?

    They were pretty stupid for grown men.

    • Joann Lijek July 18, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

      DooDoo Occurs, to the best of us.

  2. Peggy Feigner July 13, 2011 at 4:27 pm #

    Imagine, the DA’s office not responding? Can’t be true.

    It’s only been four months, I’m sure it takes at least 6 months for them to get anywhere and then they usually go in the wrong direction.

  3. dustdevil July 15, 2011 at 8:07 pm #

    Seriously people? If the District Attorneys Office is looking into whether or not to prosecute, then that states that it was either arson or an accidental ignition. Really Mrs Feigner, are you trying to make a point about the DA’s Office? What is that point? The DA’s Office or any other Law enforcement agency doesn’t have to return calls to the media. Especially with all the bashing and misinformation that this website has posted in regards to the DA’s Office. What do you mean by going in the wrong direction? Are you still bitter about your own situation? Still feeling like your agressor was given a good deal? LET IT GO!! Your agressor got what she deserved! The DA’s Office nor CDF has to release any information regarding an investigation, especially when theres a chance at negatively inpacting the investigation!!

    • Joann Lijek July 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      Spoken like a true believer. The DA’s Office and CDF have to release any information that comes under the Public records act, you just have to know how to ask. But its funny (NOT), the DA illegally releases information to criminals, while leaving the public uninformed. Thats because the DA’S OFFICE IS CROOKED and INCOMPETENT. Seriously Dustdevil (too afraid to give your real name?), if someone jumped you from behind and almost killed you, how would YOU feel. When would you forget? Its too bad you haven’t been able to experience that for yourself, then your opinion might matter and you would be able to inform us firsthand about how a REAL MAN who’s had the crap kicked out of him should act and when he will get over it. By the way, you sound pretty bitter about the “bashing and misinformation” of Mailett, got a personal stake? But of course, you won’t come out of the closet, so we’ll never know.
      I can guarantee that any information I have about the DA’s Office I can prove. Its not misinformation.


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