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Fire official: 2 fires near homeless camps east of Sebastopol were ‘human-caused’

Two fires that ignited over the past month on a stretch of land near Sebastopol were started by people and originated near homeless camps, including a brush fire that burned about 3 acres on Tuesday, according to a Santa Rosa fire investigator.

The other recent fire in that area, on property owned by the city of Santa Rosa south of Highway 12 near the Laguna de Santa Rosa, burned 5½ acres on June 23, said Santa Rosa Assistant Fire Marshal Paul Lowenthal.

Fire officials have not determined an official cause for either of the blazes, both of which are under investigation.

“Both of them appear to be in close proximity to discovered homeless encampment activities,” Lowenthal said Wednesday. “So based on that we have been combing over the area with both police and fire and we will be working to immediately remove any sort of encampment-type structures.”

Officials have found makeshift wooden dwellings in the area, but Lowenthal said they haven’t been able to get a full view of the camps because the land is thick with brush and teeming with poison oak.

He said city officials are concerned about fires spreading to homes east of the property.

“We’re going to continue to visit the site and make sure that the area is being monitored,” he said.

Nobody was evacuated or injured during the fire on Tuesday, which was reported around 4:30 p.m. and under control within an hour.

The fire on June 23 also did not cause any injuries or property damage.

You can reach Staff Writer Matt Pera at matthew.pera@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @Matt__Pera.

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