Land Owner Near the Shimmins Fire North of Willits Says She Found a Gas Can and a Neighbor Saw a Suspicious Vehicle

Flames and smoke from the Shimmins Fire crawl up a steep hillside.

Flames and smoke from the Shimmins Fire crawl up a steep hillside. [Photo by Whitney Snidow]

A series of fires started yesterday north of Willits and towards Covelo are likely arson, according to a resident who says she found a gas can in the fire near her home and a neighbor saw a vehicle that he believes was very similar to one seen at a series of suspicious fires on August 27 that included one near Bell Springs Road on Hwy 101 and two near Piercy.

According to a post last night by Whitney Snidow, a resident of Shimmins Ridge Road, “Some ASSHOLE in a reddish/burgundy 4 door SUV just threw a lit gas can out of his car on Shimmins Ridge Road!” Snidow told us later that she was coming home from her job as a nurse when she saw smoke. Soon after she saw a neighbor “throwing dirt on the fire with a cup.” Later, he left and came back with a shovel to fight the fire.

Snidow said she jumped in to help. “I had a 5 gallon bucket and I started scooping dirt,” she explained. She saw a tall plastic container that rural residents often use for carrying gas on fire. She began throwing dirt on it. “Doing this prevented the gas can from melting [completely],” she said. “I wanted to keep it as evidence [for the inspector.]”

Snidow said that she and the neighbor were right in the thick of the fire fighting it. “I had to stop it,” she said. “My house and chickens were close…[A] helicopter [dropped] a load of water on our heads!”

Her neighbor told her that he had seen a reddish/burgundy 4-door SUV leaving the area fast right before the fire. This, he told her was a similar description to that of the vehicle seen leaving a series of fires on Hwy 101 between Bell Springs Road and Piercy on August 27. 

There the vehicle was described as possibly a tan Iszuzu Trooper 4-door SUV.

Snidow said her neighbor believed the driver of the SUV seen yesterday was a man with short hair.

“We are aware of that report and it is part of [the] investigation,” said Tricia Austin, Public Information Officer for the Mendocino Cal Fire unit who explained that there were three fires yesterday north of Willits. Two were in Cal Fire’s area of responsibility and one was in Covelo Fire’s. She said that the report of the Shimmins Fire came in about 6:40 p.m. Soon after another fire was reported out Hwy 169 162, and then a third fire was reported in Covelo Fire’s response area.

The Shimmins Fire burned 10 acres and still has crews and equipment “reinforcing containment lines” though forward progress was stopped last night, she said. The second fire, the Rios Incident, reached one acre and is now out, she said.

The Covelo fire was small and quickly extinguished, according to scanner reports last night.

Austin said that the investigator would be interviewing witnesses but that she doesn’t know if the series of fires last night and on August 27 are connected nor could she confirm they were arson.

Neighbors threw gravel and dirt on a melting gas can.

Whitney Snidow said she threw gravel and dirt on a melting gas can at the scene of a fire yesterday. [Photo by Whitney Snidow]

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31 comments

  • Unbelievable. This fool has got to go.

  • so what’s the punishment if a guy were to have started these fires? it’s safe to say they could become the next Carr fire or something so would the punishment be same as if they did become huge? Is this guy going to go to prison if caught or booked and released?

  • The numbwitted brat who started the Gorge Fire last year – tossing firecrackers into the Gorge! – and his parents are responsible for about $15 million in fines and damages. He was 15 or 16 at the time.
    An Adult?
    I hesitate to start in on what to do to adults who deliberately start fires.
    Too many know-it-all bleeding hearts might take exception to my suggestions…

    • Most of us “bleeding hearts” are also tree huggers. [edit]

    • I SO agree, Mobius Dancer. I am a retired Fire Captain with CDF (California Dept. of Forestry) NOW, called Cal Fire. I have been on MANY of these large campaign fires with my crew. The destruction of human, wildlife and wildland life is beyond tragic. Stronger laws need to be enacted in dealing with arsonists. [edit] My thoughts, heart and prayers are with you folks in regards to these fires. Some detective or arson investigator will sit down and run the vins and license on the maroon SUV. He’ll be FOUND!!!! The BEST of heartfelt luck to all of you.

  • Thanks to all those who kept their wits about them and took action.

  • Maybe its calfire trying to get more federal funds…

  • Too bad it didn’t go off in his truck, fucking asshole.

  • Really guys? Not a single comment addressing the somewhat tweeky sounding story of the neighbor using cups full of dirt to attempt to extinguish the fire?

    • Right. I was thinking the same thing. And he was quick to give the same description of the suspect Of the previous fires.

    • Anti troll league

      If people are accused of every possible bad thing someone randomly thinks, then small wonder that some witnesses are reluctant to say anything. Let the investigators sort it out.

    • He's never been on a fire

      Man, if a fires about to burn your shit, throw dirt with whatever you got. Did you expect for her to have a dozer sitting there ready to go? Why didn’t she fire up the ‘copter, instead of reaching for the BUCKET of dirt. After that comment, you are going to have to carry two fire extinguishers, or something non “tweeky” to put fires out for the rest of your life.

    • Hmmm I guess when the arsonist comes to burn your property you will be able to put it out with the bullshit that comes out of your mouth. Good luck with that. You don’t know the people that gave a flying fuck enough on the way home from work to stop and use whatever they had to try to put out a fire that endangered this whole area and their homes. I’d have been less angry if someone had stupidly tossed out their cigarette and caught the hill on fire than realizing it was no accident with a gas can right there. Someone did this not an accident and I’m sure the neighbor had time to go start the other fires while he was fighting the flames

  • Take the report for what it is. A reminder to prepare for wildfire and keep your eyes open to strange happenings in your neighborhood.[edit] Trust me!! A shovel and a Mccloud don’t take up much room in a pickup bed and are very effective.

  • I’ve known Whitney for almost 25 years, she is not a tweaker, she is a Registered Nurse for Mendocino County Public Health. She lives just above this fire and could have lost everything is she didn’t react the way she did. Dirt or sand are great alternatives to water if you don’t have it.

    James Marmon MSW
    Former Social Worker V
    Mendocino Family and Children’s Services.

  • If we’re dealing with the same creep who set Bell Springs and Piercy fires last week…. I hope authorities realize that there are not all that many Isuzus on the road. Can’t a database narrow the field so we can stop this guy?

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