Neighbors suspect arson is behind 15 spot fires in Healdsburg

Families living in Healdsburg are suspicious that arson is to blame for the 15 vegetation fires that sparked in the span of just over three hours Monday night.

Approximately 80 Cal Fire personnel and 20 fire engines responded Monday night to vegetation fires that sparked from 8:10 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. The fires scorched six acres, and crews had them contained before midnight.

On Tuesday, Cal Fire completed the cleanup and monitored the area near Healdsburg Avenue and Mill Creek Road for hotspots.

The largest fire was on Chiquita Road. Shannon Gallaher and Travis Caranza's house sits feet away from the hillside that burned. 

Gallaher evacuated her children and dogs from the house, just as crews arrived to put out the flames.

"When we were heading down the driveway, we heard the sirens come, and so I was like, 'Okay, they're already here, that's good,'" Ashlyn, Shannon Gallaher's 12-year-old daughter, said.

The Cal Fire investigation into what, or who, caused these fires, is underway.

"We want to make sure we avoid confirmation bias when we conduct investigations," Ben Nichols, the Cal Fire Sonoma Operations Chief, in response to unverified beliefs shared by neighbors that arson was at play.

"The only thing that made me think it could possibly be arson was we didn't have this wind," Gallaher said, noting that Tuesday's gusty winds were a far cry from the breezeless night prior.

"And they're all so close together, it's hard to believe that there's not something funny going on there," Caranza, Gallaher's husband, added.

Caranza is a landscape architect. His and Gallaher's family lost their previous home in the Tubbs Fire in 2017. He checked up on his clients living near the spot fires on Monday.

"I check in with people that I know, that are close to it, just to make sure they're being vigilant," Caranza said. "Not to put scare, but just to be aware. Just be ready. If you've got to go, you've got to go."