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June 1, 2023

Cal Fire: Unattended fire sparked Lockheed blaze

Cal Fire officials announced Feb. 26 that an unattended fire on a small private parcel of land on Lehi Road started the 8,000 acre Lockheed Fire last August.
Lehi Road is in the Scotts Creek drainage area, west of the Lockheed-Martin Space Systems facilities property in Bonny Doon.
“It wasn’t really a campfire,” Cal Fire Division Chief Rich Sampson said of the small fire. “They were burning, that’s all I can say. We still have an investigation going on.”
The fire began Aug. 12, 2009, and burned for 11 days, scorching more than 7,800 acres in the Bonny Doon and Davenport areas and destroying 13 outbuildings, with damage to another.
In total, the fire cost more than $26 million to fight as thousands of firefighters from all over California took part in the effort.
But the announcement of the cause of the fire has raised more questions than answers for members of the Bonny Doon Fire Team.
“Everybody seems kind of leery and suspicious about the whole thing,” said Rob Caldeira, board chairman of the Bonny Doon Fire Team. “Based on the feedback I’ve been getting from the guys (on the team), it’s really strange. It’s a really strange press release.”
Sampson said the investigation of a large fire often takes months to complete.
“In fire investigations on bigger, more complex fires, it can take a year before we file a case,” he said.
Sampson would not say whether Cal Fire identified who started the fire or the address where it originated.
Sampson said Cal Fire will submit its case to the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office or to the California Attorney General, who will then decide whether to prosecute.
Sampson’s announcement also revealed how the fire was reported.
Because of a lack of phone service in the Scott Creek drainage area, a resident of the area drove to the Lockheed-Martin facility to report the fire. Lockheed-Martin employees then called 9-1-1.
Rumors have circulated since the fire, including speculation that it was the body of Elias Sorokin that was being burned.
Sorokin was a Los Angeles businessman who authorities say was killed in Santa Cruz after a drug deal gone bad July 20. Sorokin’s burned-out truck was found in Bonny Doon just off Empire Grade Road on July 28, nearly two weeks before the Aug. 12 Lockheed Fire. His body has not been found.


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