RENO — Investigators said they lack evidence to arrest a “person of interest” in a 2007 catastrophic wildfire on Lake Tahoe’s south shore, but the case remains a high priority.
Wednesday marks the two-year anniversary of the blaze that destroyed 254 homes, caused $140 million in property damage and scorched 3,100 acres.
Bill Dillard, an investigator with the El Dorado County district attorney’s office in California, said he continues to follow up leads in the case.
“The fact that the tips have not panned out makes me more confident about the person of interest I have,” he said, declining to provide any details about the person.
Investigators think the fire was caused by embers from a campfire at a popular party spot near South Lake Tahoe, Calif. But they don’t have probable cause to make an arrest yet because of a lack of evidence linking the person to the scene, Dillard said.
“There’s reasonable suspicion, which is a lower standard than probable cause,” he said. “But probable cause is hard to establish in wildfires because evidence burns up and there’s not a whole lot of witnesses.”
The district attorney’s office and U.S. Forest Service have sorted through hundreds of tips concerning who started the campfire near Seneca Pond. High winds fanned flames and quickly moved the fire toward homes.
A special panel created after the fire warned that another catastrophic blaze is imminent and recommended dozens of steps to stop it, from banning wood shingles to spending more than $100 million to improve the area’s water system.
The California-Nevada Tahoe Basin Fire Commission also said federal and state disaster declarations were needed to jump-start tree-thinning and other efforts.