Faulty water heater sparked massive Lake County fire

A water heater failure sparked the first of two fires that together formed the massive Rocky fire in Lake County, Cal Fire officials announced Wednesday.

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection investigators determined that the fire originated from a faulty water heater in a property’s outbuilding on Morgan Valley Road. Flammable liquids were inside the building, causing the structure to catch fire. The flames then quickly spread to nearby vegetation.

Further investigation on the Rocky fire continues, said Cal Fire spokesman Daniel Berlant.

“We know how (the fire) sparked, but how it started or why it started is still under investigation,” Berlant said.

The cause of the Jerusalem fire that ultimately merged with the Rocky fire has yet to be determined and also remains under investigation. The area where that fire originated has not been released.

The Rocky fire started July 29 west of Lower Lake. The fire burned nearly 70,000 acres and destroyed 43 homes and 53 outbuildings. More than 13,000 residents were affected by evacuations, and the blaze forced the closure of main highways in Lake, Colusa and Yolo counties.

The fire was 100 percent contained two weeks later on Friday.

The Jerusalem fire began Aug. 9 and burned in the same area as the Rocky fire, but officials said the cause is unrelated. That fire was estimated at 25,118 acres with 95 percent containment as of Wednesday.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee