Woman charged with starting 63,000-acre Delta wildfire in 2018

A firefighter cocks his arm back to throw a lit flare as massive orange flames burn along a two-lane highway in the woods
A firefighter throws a flare to start a back fire as the Delta fire burns along Pollard Camp Road north of Redding in 2018.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A woman has been charged with starting the 2018 Delta wildfire in Shasta County, which quickly tore through more than 63,000 acres and destroyed dozens of properties.

Cynthia Ann Leroux, a 57-year-old resident of Mountain Gate in Shasta County, was arrested Wednesday and has been charged by the Shasta County district attorney’s office with 20 felony counts of arson and two special-circumstance allegations of arson with aggravating factors.

The charges related to the Delta fire include two counts of arson that caused great bodily injury during a state of emergency and 16 counts of arson of a structure, property or forest land during a state of emergency.


At a media briefing Wednesday, Shasta County Dist. Atty. Stephanie Bridgett said Leroux’s actions had left a truck driver hospitalized with burns and another truck driver with a head injury.

Leroux also faces two counts of arson in connection with two much smaller fires she’s accused of starting in December 2018 and March 2020. She has not been arraigned, and it was unclear who was representing her.

“With the drought that California is in and fire season that is upon us, this announcement is a timely reminder of the consequences of setting fires,” Bridgett said.

Leroux is accused of starting the Delta fire when the county was already in a state of emergency due to the July 2018 Carr fire, which killed eight people and burned almost 230,000 acres in Shasta and Trinity counties.

The Delta fire began Sept. 5, 2018, north of Redding and was fueled by warm weather and strong winds. At the time, officials were also battling the Hirz fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, which charred more than 46,000 acres.

Authorities evacuated several small mountain communities. At one point, drivers on Interstate 5, which was closed for several days, were forced to abandon their vehicles to flee the blaze.

Kari Otto, a deputy forest supervisor for the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, said the Delta fire destroyed more than 45 structures.

Leroux was being held on $1-million bail Wednesday and faces a maximum sentence of more than 55 years in prison.