CHP: Suspected DUI crash sparked Highway 20 fire

An Amador County driver, suspected of being intoxicated, sparked a brush fire that destroyed two homes and has burned almost 90 acres along Highway 20 west of Upper Lake, according to the CHP.

Shellie Boulais, 52, a massage therapist from Jackson, was booked into the Lake County jail on suspicion of driving under the influence. Fire officials said she potentially could face additional charges in connection with the fire.

Boulais lost control of her vehicle on Highway 20 and crashed into an embankment east of Blue Lakes at 3:55 p.m. Wednesday, the CHP said. She was treated for minor injuries, then booked, officials said. Because of the fire, CHP officials said they have not yet completed their accident investigation.

The fire was 90 percent contained as of 7:30 p.m. Thursday and was expected to be fully contained by morning, said Cal Fire Capt. Joe Fletcher. The fire is expected to be extinguished by Friday afternoon, he said.

Once ignited by the crash on Wednesday, strong winds quickly whipped the fire through brush on both sides of the highway, according to Cal Fire. The two-lane highway between Scotts Valley Road and the Lodge at Blue Lakes was closed for several hours, then opened to one lane of traffic. Both lanes were reopened at about 11 p.m., Wednesday, according to the CHP.

More than 200 firefighters continued battling the fire Thursday. Cal Fire said the winds died down overnight, helping firefighters gain control. The winds were expected to pick up again Thursday, but they failed to materialize, giving firefighters the opportunity to make further progress.

Cal Fire’s investigation of the fire is continuing, Fletcher said. He said it’s possible that Cal Fire would recommend that additional allegations be added to Boulais’ charges.

“There have been people charged” for starting fires in the past, he said.

In August, a federal grand jury charged a hunter with starting the Rim Fire - the largest fire in the Sierra on record. The 2013 fire burned more than 250,000 acres in the Stanislaus National Forest and Yosemite National Park. The hunter, Keith Emerald of Tuolumne County, is accused of illegally building a campfire and allowing it to get out of control. He’s also accused of lying about the fire.

You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or On Twitter @MendoReporter

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