By Macy Jenkins

OROVILLE (CBS13) — As the Ponderosa Fire continues to grow, the evacuation area has also expanded. Now nearly 1,000 firefighters are out there trying to get the fire contained.

John Ballenger, 29. was arrested Tuesday night. Investigators suspect he started a fire outside of a designated campground and allowed the fire to escape.

Melanie Grove works at Feather Falls Gold Flake Saloon. She says she’s seen Ballenger at the bar many times.

“He wasn’t acting what we say is normal,” Grove said.

Grove says she and her neighbors have seen small fires in the area and trees and nails thrown into the middle of the road. And in all of those instances, Ballenger was always nearby.

“I just wish somebody could’ve helped him before this all happened,” she said.

Fire Capt. Joe Chavez says the challenge for firefighters is the steep terrain and flames on both sides of Lumpkin Road.

“The access is making it very difficult to get a good foothold on making some control lines, that’s why we have the zero percent containment,” he explained.

As the firefight continues, Grove is staying behind, hoping the Saloon can be one last safe place for her neighbors to gather.

“If it’s threatening us, then we will have to leave,” Grove said.


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