Cigarette to blame for Petaluma grass fire


A Petaluma grass fire along Highway 101 at the start of Monday afternoon’s commute that tied up traffic in both directions started with a cigarette, a Petaluma fire official said Tuesday.

A woman called for help about 3:20 p.m. saying her cigarette had sparked a fire she couldn’t put out, said Petaluma fire Battalion Chief Jeff Schach. She was calling from a bike path near the highway just north of Washington Street.

The fire was stopped at about one acre. Firefighters reached the flames from the highway and blocked the slow lane with equipment. Heavy smoke drifted across the highway, adding to the slow-down from the blocked lane.

Flames began to move into a stand of redwood trees, a great concern to firefighters, as they then can quickly torch the tall trees and spread burning embers to nearby homes.

That’s what happened one year ago when a person tossed a cigarette butt from the freeway in the same area, but on the northbound side. The fire quickly spread, scorching several redwood trees and damaging 14 homes.

Petaluma police and fire prevention officers spoke to the woman, Schach said.

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or On Twitter@rossmannreport.