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Meteor may have caused fire that destroyed California home, firefighters say

Fire trucks respond to a residential structure fire as smoke filled the night sky.
A Penn Valley Fire District crew responded to a residential structure fire near Lake Englebright in Nevada County. A meteor may have been responsible for the fire, officials said.
(California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection)
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A meteor that shot across the Northern California sky Friday night may have caused a fire that burned a home to the ground in Nevada County, firefighters said.

Fire crews responded to reports of a structure fire on a cattle ranch around 7:30 p.m., about the same time that residents in the area reported seeing a bright light tearing through the sky, said Penn Valley Fire District Capt. Clayton Thomas.

No one was injured but a family’s dog, Tug, was killed, along with several rabbits, fire officials said.

“There was even a video of someone who saw that light and drove to where they thought it had fallen and they pulled up to where the fire was,” Thomas said. “They thought that was about where they’d seen the light fall.”

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It took firefighters about an hour and a half to battle the blaze.

Firefighters on scene were approached by members of the public who reported that they believed the fire was connected to the meteor shower. Numerous residents posted video of the fireball in the sky to social media.

“I heard a big bang, I started to smell smoke and I went onto my porch and it was completely engulfed in flames,” homeowner Dustin Procita said in an interview with KCRA. “They said it was a meteor.”

Thomas said the department is investigating whether the fire was caused by the meteor, but no official determinations are expected for weeks. He said that about 1,500 meteors that connect with Earth hit land per year and that most of those land in unoccupied areas.

“It’s very, very rare, but not impossible” to hit a structure, he said, adding that he hadn’t worked a meteor fire in his 25 years as a firefighter.

NASA reported a meteor shower above California around the time of the fire as well. Penn Valley is northeast of Sacramento.

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“There are numerous reports on the American Meteor Society website of a fireball seen last evening in the Pacific states at 7:28 PM,” the agency wrote on its Facebook page. The fireball was traveling around 32,000 mph, NASA said.

NASA said the meteor spotted over California was not part of the Taurid meteor shower, which was also spotted in California this week.

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