Driver’s cigarette fingered in Petaluma US-101 fire

A discarded cigarette from someone traveling on U.S. Highway 101 is suspected as the cause of a fire that destroyed four Petaluma homes and damaged 10 others Tuesday, a fire official said Thursday.

“Our investigators followed the burn patterns back to the edge of the freeway and found cigarette butts we believe are the cause of the fire,” Petaluma Acting Battalion Chief Chad Costa said.

The fire started around 3:15 p.m. in grass along the northbound side of Highway 101 north of the Lakeville Highway on-ramp, fire officials said.

The fire spread to eucalyptus trees along the highway and into the backyards of houses on Stuart Drive.

Firefighters from 16 agencies controlled the fire in an hour, and overhaul and total extinguishment of fire inside several homes took another three hours, Battalion Chief Jeff Schach said.

A cat died in one of the homes that was destroyed and two residents suffered minor injuries.

The fire caused damage estimated at $1.5 million.