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Two houses burned in Graton fire exercise

Two houses on property that Graton activist John Jenkel has lost to winemaker Paul Hobbs in a civil dispute were burned by firefighters Saturday during a training exercise.

"We don't get to train on that many structure fires, it is a good opportunity for training," said Occidental fire Capt. Dennis Sandberg. "The available houses are few and far between, on average once every year or year and a half."

The homes were burned between 7 a.m. and 2 p.m. by firefighters from Occidental, Forestville, Gold Ridge and Graton. The property is located in the Graton district.

Hobbs acquired the property, which borders Highway 116, as part of a Sonoma County civil judgment of $350,000 against Jenkel that stems from a 2006 dispute between Hobbs and Jenkel.

Fire officials said that Hobbs gave them permission to use the structures in a training drill.

"We try and get the word out to the community as much as possible that if there is a home to demolish, we would love to use it for training," Graton fire Deputy Chief Bill Bullard said. "It is an opportunity you can't duplicate in any type of training."

-- Bob Norberg


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