SOMERSET (CBS13) – There is more potential trouble tonight for an El Dorado County supervisor who’s already facing several felony charges. Fire investigators are now looking into how the fire started last week on Ray Nutting’s property and burned out of control.
The blaze broke out Friday afternoon on land owned by Supervisor Ray Nutting, which is near Somerset. Cal Fire says extreme winds, with gusts up to 60 mph, helped spread the flames approximately five acres. And it took them four hours to get it under control.
In March, Nutting gave us a tour of his timber ranch and showed us how he used thousands of dollars in taxpayer money to reduce the threat of fires by burning off debris.
“The more we do this in the forest, the less catastrophic fires we have,” said Nutting.
But that kind of work is the suspected cause of Friday’s fire. Nutting tells CBS13 he burned off several debris piles during a rainstorm early last week and blames Friday’s strong winds for re-igniting them.
El Dorado County DA Investigator Dave Stevenson says that’s no excuse.
“The lesson to be learned here is that when you are doing burn piles, you are responsible for them and your responsibility is monitor and maintain those fires until they are completely out, whether it’s three days, one day or a week,” said Stevenson.
And this isn’t Nutting’s first brush with firefighters.
CBS13 uncovered documents showing Cal Fire has responded to multiple other fires at Nutting’s dating back to 2002, and as recently as last January.
Nutting told us by phone this is the safest time of year to burn away brush.
He says he had a bulldozer and water standing by, but said Friday’s winds unexpectedly rekindled the brush he thought was out.
There’s no indication of criminal wrongdoing; however, Nutting is still facing several felony charges for perjury, conflict of interest and filing false documents in connection to accepting that taxpayer money to do the work on his ranch.
Nutting’s trial date is scheduled to begin next year.
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