BODEGA BAY, Calif. (KTVU) - A high-speed chase came to a fiery end when a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy crashed into a home in Bodega Bay.
Despite being injured, that deputy helped get three people out of the home before his SUV and the home started to burn.
"This is right where he came through," Charlie DeMartini said as he surveyed the path the SUV took early Sunday morning. "Flew right through there, man. You can see right there. The tracks are all right here."
The deputy was chasing Ryan Moore, 35, of Santa Rosa, who was suspected of stealing portable generators from a local campground. But that pursuit ended when the deputy crashed into a vacation home on Highway 1.
"So once the pursuit happened, a deputy lost control, was going too fast, lost control, went over an embankment and crashed into a house," said sheriff's Sgt. Spencer Crum.
The house was an airbnb rental. Three people from San Francisco were inside sleeping at the time and couldn't get out. Deputies, including the one who crashed, helped them escape - before both the patrol car and the house caught on fire.
"After the deputy kicked the door in and rescued the occupants, got them out of the house safely, the patrol car, they noticed smoke coming out of the patrol car, and the house caught on fire," Crum said.
Firefighters spent several hours putting the fire out and checking for hot spots.
The deputy was taken to the hospital with serious injuries. His SUV was a total loss.
The incident has once again raised questions about the safety of high-speed pursuits.
"The faster you chase, the faster he's gonna go, that something like this is gonna happen," said DeMartini, who takes care of a rental home next door.
"He should have definitely backed off and called for backup. It's not that important to chase somebody, especially through this kind of neighborhood here," DeMartini said.
Crum said, "It was about five in the morning, very light traffic, however we have to take into consideration the fog, wet roads, things like that that might affect our ability to pursue him safely, and our department will be looking into actions that we took."
The incident started hours earlier before dawn as deputies were conducting surveillance at Doran Beach campground because of portable generator thefts. Campers say the devices aren't cheap.
"It's an investment," Michael Costello said as he relaxed with two friends and two yellow Labrador retrievers at the campground. "A reasonable one's around a thousand dollars."
He added, "It's kind of sad that people just think that anything sitting around is free game."
Several hours after the crash, state park rangers found a Honda Pilot - reported stolen out of Santa Cruz - abandoned at a construction site and traced it to Moore, who was arrested later in the day as he left his home with two other suspects.
Moore was arrested on suspicion of reckless evading causing great bodily injury, resisting arrest, possession of a stolen vehicle and a probation violation.