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Fire Chief: Caltrans Didn’t Cut Tall Weeds Before Fire That Nearly Destroyed Old Cordelia

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CORDELIA (CBS13) — The fast-moving fire that tore through Old Cordelia a month ago, destroying the home of a bride-to-be was sparked by a cigarette, according to fire investigators.

The Cordelia Fire also burned down eight outbuildings and damaged two homes.

Fire Chief Jay Huyssoon says someone threw the cigarette out on Lopes Road into tall weeds that helped fuel the fire.

One month after running out of her home to escape the fire, Heather Thornton is learning it could have all been prevented.

“We lost our whole house because of one little cigarette,” she said.

Fairfield city leaders say the fire started on city property, but Caltrans is responsible for the land on the other side of the fence where the fire spread, jumped on the median, and eventually into Cordelia.

“We’re one of many people who probably complain,” Huyssoon said.

He says he’s talked to Caltrans before about cutting the weeds when they grow tall. This year, they grew up to six feet.

“I don’t know if there was a budget cut; I don’t know what it is, or whether they’re just way behind just because the weeds are so high,” he said.

Caltrans released a statement, saying in part, “Caltrans was in the process of mowing on I-780, a far more densely populated area. That area was prioritized over the I-680 area, which was scheduled to be mowed afterwards … Additionally, we are unable to control the actions of an arsonist.”

Huyssoon believes if the weeds were cut, Old Cordelia wouldn’t have nearly burned to the ground.

“We wouldn’t have had the problem, he said.

For Heather, she hopes this is a wakeup call before someone else loses their home.

“Plenty of people that live here were complaining about the weeds not being cut,” she said.

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