The lethal Valley Fire that destroyed nearly 2,000 buildings and killed at least four people in September was started by faulty wiring at a home outside the community of Cobb in Lake County, California, an investigation found.
The fire, which raced through Cobb, Middletown and several other communities in a matter of hours, charred more than 76,000 acres. It destroyed 1,280 homes, 27 apartment buildings and 651 other buildings, making it the third most destructive blaze in state history.
Four people were confirmed dead in the fire. A fifth person, who has been missing since the fire started, has not been found. Four firefighters sustained second-degree burns. The fire cost an estimated $56 million to suppress.
Investigators traced the cause of the fire to an electrical connection for a hot tub at a home on High Valley Road, according to a report released Wednesday by the state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or CAL FIRE.
The copper wires were heated to the point at which they melted – at least 1,981 degrees. Sparks arcing from the connection also might have ignited dry grass surrounding the wiring.
The homeowner told investigators that he had not mowed weeds and grass for nearly a month prior to the fire.
The connection, which was installed by the homeowner, did not meet code standards, and no permits or plans for the wiring were on file with the county building division, according to investigators.
The report has been sent to the Lake County district attorney’s office for review, according to CAL FIRE spokesman Daniel Berlant.
Check out Reveal’s previous coverage of the Valley Fire and two other Lake County fires last year.
Eric Sagara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @esagara.