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Grass Fire Near El Verano Sparks Fears of Arsonist

Second fire in five days on Grove St. near Wyatt Rd.

Firemen from Sonoma and Marin counties converged on the dead-end stretch of Grove St., west of the township of El Verano, to quench a grass fire that erupted shortly before 4 p.m.

A cloud of smoke was clearly visible from the city of Sonoma four miles away, and within half an hour of the fire's being reported to airborne tankers were dousing the site with fire retardant.

Outside of El Verano, fire trucks gathered on the little-used rural road, which was blocked to traffic at Carriger Rd.

Mark Castellucci, Sr, a resident on Grove across the street from the site of today's fire, said he called it in at about 3:45. "These guys respond really fast, that's for sure."

As he sprayed the wooden gate fronting the blackened half acre with a garden hose, he freely speculated that an arsonist was to blame.

Five days earlier, about 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, a small grass fire started where his own property meets the road - directly across the two-lane street from today's fire.

Asked if it were a coincidence, a neighbor who asked not to be identified say simply, "We don't know."

She said had grazed her horses on the grassy plot, one of the few areas in the immediate vicinity that has not been converted to vineyards.

"We stopped grazing them a few weeks ago, the grass got too high."

None of the neighbords knew who the owner of the property was.

Phil Sutsos, a Petaluma Fire Department Battalion Chief, was among those who  who responded to the call. "We might have a bug," he said.

"The humidity is low, it's hot - in these conditions a discarded cigarette could cause a fire, sure," he said. "But twice in one week? On the same street? It could be a coincidence, or..."

The alternative hung in the air, as heavy as the smoke that curled up from the blackend grasses, from between the malbec vineyards on the next lot, into the 90-degree Sonoma County afternoon.

More details as they become available on Sonoma Patch.

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