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Man arrested, homes burn in Ponderosa Fire

Man arrested, homes burn in Ponderosa Fire

Oroville resident John Ballenger will appear in court on Friday.

The fire, which is burning in the foothills about 15 miles east of Oroville, sparked about 1:15 p.m. Tuesday and was reported at 3,507 acres at first report this morning, with just 10 percent containment, according to Cal Fire-Butte County.

Merrifield also granted a request by prosecutors to set Ballenger's bail at $1 million.

Ballenger appeared in court wearing a yellow jail-issued jumpsuit and did not immediately enter a plea.

Firefighters are dumping retardant on the blaze and have contained 30% of it but fear new pockets could break out because of the heat.

Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey said Friday prosecutors believe Ballenger had been maintaining for days a campfire along a creek known as Sucker Run near the dam at Ponderosa Reservoir. The public defender's office could not be reached for comment.

It's being fought by security site fire crews, with help from a helicopter able to detect any aerial release of radiation.

The declaration will free up additional resources to battle the blaze, which erupted on Tuesday from a campfire that was started outside a designated area.

The blaze in thick brush that has not burned in decades was slowly creeping down a rugged hillside on Saturday toward houses, with temperatures in the area approaching 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius), the Los Angeles Fire Department said in an alert.

Officials also ordered the evacuation of Sugar Pine, a small community of homes and vacation rentals threatened by the nearby flames. In 2016 and earlier this year the 19,000-gallon aircraft was used on fires in Israel and Chile, but it wasn't until a few days ago that it had all of the inspections, tests, approvals, and very importantly, a contract in place.

In Montana, Gov. Steve Bullock on Friday declared a state of disaster due to wildfires as dozens raged across tens of thousands of acres during one of the worst fire seasons in state history.


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