Massive Rocky fire near Napa was sparked by faulty water heater, investigators say

Rocky fire in Northern California

Firefighters make their way up a hillside along Water Trough Road in Lake County, south of Clearlake, on Aug. 5, 2015.

(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A wildfire that burned more than 100 square miles of forest in Northern California for about two weeks this summer was sparked by a malfunctioning water heater, state fire investigators said Wednesday.

The Rocky fire began about 3:30 p.m. July 29 off Morgan Valley Road in Lake County when a gas water heater malfunctioned, caught fire and spread to surrounding brush, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The fire burned nearly 70,000 acres and destroyed 43 homes before it was fully contained Aug. 14.

The Rocky fire briefly ran alongside the Jerusalem fire, which started to its south and has burned more than 25,000 acres. That fire is 95% contained, and a cause for it is still under investigation.


The Rocky fire was among the largest in the state this year and pushed smoke hundreds of miles across the region, including as far south as San Francisco.

After weeks of lightning-caused blazes in the northern half of the state, Southern California’s drought-parched hillsides have begun to go up in flames.

A fast-moving blaze in Montebello briefly threatened homes earlier in the week, and a fire that’s only 3% contained in San Luis Obispo County has forced thousands of people to leave their homes near Hume Lake.

For breaking California news, follow @JosephSerna.



Get our Essential California newsletter