Woman accused of starting destructive Clearlake Oaks blaze

A woman has been arrested on suspicion of starting the fire that destroyed five homes and six outbuildings on Sunday along Hoover Street in Clearlake Oaks, authorities said.

Lake County sheriff’s deputies received a call Monday that Tori Brannon was “walking up and down the street shouting at neighbors ... she did not owe anyone an apology for starting the fire the previous night,” according to a sheriff’s department news release issued Wednesday.

After making contact with the woman, deputies said she told them, “she was attempting to dispose of old gasoline by pouring it on the ground and soaking it up with an old blanket. Brannon attempted to put the gas soaked blanket into a trash bag when a Bic lighter she was holding in her hand spontaneously sparked and ignited the blanket, causing the fire to get out of her control. Brannon said the flames blew up in her face and (she) began shouting for someone to call 9-1-1.”

Brannon, of Clearlake Oaks, was arrested on suspicion of unlawful starting of a fire resulting in destruction of an inhabited structure and unlawful starting of a fire during a State of Emergency.

She was being detained at the Hill Road Correctional Facility in lieu of $500,000 bail.

No serious injuries were reported as a result of the fire, which caused an estimated $613,500 damage, officials said.

North Shore Fire Protection District Battalion Chief Dave Emmel told The Press Democrat on Tuesday that the first fire chief to arrive on scene reported “heavy wind blowing embers through the town.”

At least 50 firefighters responded to the blaze and “we pretty much had every agency in Lake County represented,” Emmel said.

Residents fled as flames spread through the neighborhood, gobbling up gardens and torching trees. Authorities evacuated everybody within two blocks of the blaze.

A utility pole caught fire and several power lines were knocked down by falling trees, wiping out electricity for much of the neighborhood, Emmel said.

Firefighters had the blaze under control by 10 p.m. and authorities allowed evacuees to return to their homes, he said.

The Red Cross provided assistance to three families – five adults, one child and about a dozen pets.

Staff Writers Mya Constantion and Matt Pera contributed to this report.

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