Four homes and a gazebo were damaged by a wind-driven fire Friday afternoon that burned about 30 acres in Roseville's Maidu Regional Park.
Assistant Fire Chief Jeff Carman said the Fire Department received a report about 2:25 p.m. of a fire in a nature area behind Maidu Elementary School on Johnson Ranch Drive.
Children were reported to have been seen leaving the area, he said, leading to suspicions that the fire may have been set.
The fire spread due to heavy fuels and wind, growing rapidly to about 30 acres. Although damage within the park was limited to the nature area, four homes were damaged.
"We had some housing with combustible exteriors, like shake roofs," Carman said. The structure fires resulted from embers blown onto the homes by the wind.
Carman said damage to the homes ranged from "mild to moderate," but he said the residents of all four homes have been displaced and will be assisted by the Red Cross.
The fire spread to the south and east. The homes damaged were in the area of Johnson Ranch and Parkhill drives, Carman said.
No homes were evacuated, but Carman said about 250 residents of the area were notified of the fire and advised to shelter in place or leave. He said some roadways around the park were closed to traffic for several hours.
Maidu Regional Park is home to a community center and library, as well as recreational facilities, including a softball complex and skate park. Carman said none of those facilities was damaged.
About 180 firefighters from Roseville, Rocklin, South Placer, Penryn, Loomis and the Sacramento Metropolitan fire departments, as well as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, battled the blaze, along with 40 pieces of equipment, including a bulldozer and helicopter.
"People have got to really understand that this is going to be a really, really bad fire season," Carman said.
Although the weather forecast indicates the area may receive up to three-quarters of an inch of rain next week, he said, that will not be enough to reduce fire dangers.
Call The Bee's Cathy Locke, (916) 321-5287.