At Root of Deadly California Wildfire: Faulty Hot Tub
Calif. homeowners could be ordered to pay part of $57M it took to fight it
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Aug 11, 2016 12:32 AM CDT
Flames burn near gas lines at a destroyed apartment complex in Middletown, Calif. after the fire.   (Eric Risberg)
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(Newser) – A hot tub's faulty wiring ignited one of California's most destructive wildfires, a blaze that killed four people, sent four firefighters to the hospital, and destroyed more than 1,300 homes last year, officials say. In addition, a fifth person who was last seen in his home before it was destroyed by the fire is missing and presumed dead. The wiring of the hot tub on residential property owned by John and Cindy Pinch in Cobb "was not installed according to building code," investigators wrote in a 500-page report on the cause of the 120-square-mile wildfire that devastated a large portion of rural Lake County and parts of Napa County about 90 miles north of San Francisco in September last year.

The property owners are now being investigated for possible criminal charges as well as whether they are responsible for any of the $57 million it cost to extinguish the 2015 fire, the AP reports. Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott says a building permit was required when homeowner John Pinch installed the used hot tub in 2009, but they haven't found one on file. The fire was the state's third most destructive blaze and forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of residents and businesses. Lake County DA Don Anderson says criminal charges could be filed. "We are involved with four deaths and that could be a whole range of criminal activity," he says. "Obviously there was destruction of a lot of property."