Danville Express

Newsfront - August 3, 2007

Fire burns 11 acres in Magee Ranch

Hillside is victim of tomato plant protection gone awry

by Jordan M. Doronila

A fire burned 11 grassy acres off Leafield Road in the Magee Ranch neighborhood in Danville in the early evening Sunday. The damaged acreage included private land near Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space.

The fire was started when a 15-year-old boy detonated a gopher bomb to protect his tomatoes from being eaten by gophers and squirrels in his back yard, said Battalion Chief Mike Brown of the San Ramon Valley Fire Protection District.

"He purchased a gopher bomb - it creates smoke," said Brown, noting the boy wanted to put it in a hole. "Unfortunately, it caused a fire."

Firefighters arrived after receiving the call at 5:10 p.m., Sunday, July 29. Approximately 15 fire engines, four air tankers, and two helicopters were called, and a total of 90 people responded, he said.

The air tankers released orange retardant and the helicopters released water on the blaze. Firefighters hosed water and foam on the fire. It was contained around 6 p.m., Brown said.

Brown said 25 homes - each of them worth $2 million - were threatened by the fire. However, no one was injured and no homes were damaged. Although, there were some pastures that were burned.

Neighbor Pat Rickey and his 6-year-old daughter Cara saw the flames burning.

"You could hear the crackling fire," Rickey said. "My daughter started crying. She had never heard a fire. The fire got close to the back yards on Leafield Road."

"This was quite an excitement around the neighborhood," he added. "Everyone was quite concerned. The neighbors were congregating together."

Rickey said the rescuers arrived quickly.

"I was impressed with the response time," he said.

Brown noted the fire district and Cal Fire will not charge the responsible boy or his parents for fire suppression charges. Also, the Danville Police Department will not press charges against the teenager.

"My guess is that he will have a stern talking to," Brown said. "It could've been worse."

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