Lake County blaze doubles in size to 12,000 acres

The Jerusalem fire that broke out near the huge but mostly contained Rocky fire in Lake County grew overnight to 12,000 acres.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said Tuesday that there was still no containment on the new fire.

The Jerusalem fire broke out about 3:45 p.m. Sunday just off Jerusalem Road, 7 miles east of Middletown. A mandatory evacuation order is in place for the Jerusalem Valley.

A total of 1,122 firefighting personnel were working to put out the fire.

The fire was burning to the east and southeast. Firefighting resources from the nearby Rocky fire are being directed to the Jerusalem fire zone.

Fire officials said the comparatively small Jerusalem blaze could merge with the Rocky fire, the state’s largest wildfire, which has burned nearly 70,000 acres and is 85 percent contained.

On Sunday, Cal Fire law enforcement officers arrested Juan Ramos Silva, 49, of Lower Lake on suspicion of arson and starting a backfire in an apparent attempt to protect his property from the Jerusalem fire.

According to deputies, Silva said he set the fire to prevent the Jerusalem fire from burning his home. But the deputies believed he set the backfire to protect his marijuana plants, not his residence.

The fire that Silva is accused of setting is not the cause of either the Rocky or Jerusalem fires, according to Cal Fire. The causes of those Lake County fires are still under investigation.

Lake County deputies were called about 5:45 p.m. Sunday to an area near Silva’s residence for a report of fire. They noticed a fire along Spruce Grove Road and a large marijuana patch on the property.

Silva said he had been a firefighter in Mexico and that the fire was a “controlled burn.”

Cal Fire Battalion Chief Scott A. McLean said it is rare for a property owner to set a backfire. When nonprofessionals use backfire as a tool, the situation is fraught with danger, he said.

“They don’t understand the concept,” McLean said. “They don’t know what it could cause. It could add to the fire; you could redirect the fire.”

He said amateurs may not know what the winds will do, whether canyons will affect the direction of the blaze and what dangerous wind-blown embers the backfire might produce.

Bill Lindelof: 916-321-1079, @Lindelofnews

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