No criminal charges in Morgan Fire

December 2, 2013

Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson announced last week that he will not be filing criminal charges in the Morgan Fire.

The Sept. 9 fire started when the grandson of the owner of the mercury mines on Morgan Territory Road was target shooting on what was designated as a rifle range on the family’s private property. “There is no evidence the fire was intentionally started,” said Peterson in a statement issued Nov. 27.

He further determined that there was “no evidence that the use of the involved rifle or ammunition in that area was in violation of state law.

According to Peterson’s report, a steel projectile fired from the rifle hit a rock and sparked a fire in dry grass. That fire was quickly extinguished, but sparked a bigger “spot fire” 1000 feet away in a pine grove. It was this spot fire that raged out of control.

The fire burned 3,111 acres on Mt. Diablo and North Peak and burned for five days at an estimated cost of $5.3 million.

“We are fully aware of the tremendous harm to property and the environment caused by the fire,” states Peterson. “However, in the final analysis, the key legal question is whether it was reasonably foreseeable that discharging a firearm in this area under these circumstances would cause a fire. Given the sheer number of times firearms have been discharged in this area and in similar areas throughout the state without causing a fire, it is the determination of this office that no criminal liability can be attached to the cause and origin of this fire. Therefore, under the law, this office will not be filing any criminal charges regarding the fire.”

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