Big Sur, CA Arrest Made For Setting Backfires

In a interesting twist, a brother in Big Sur, CA. has been arrested for setting back fires to save his families home. Picture this. Two brothers are watching helplessly as fire approaches from two sides. There are no firefighters available since they are already busy fighting other blazes. You must remember that there were some 1100 fires already burning in California. [The number of fires reported depends on which news agency was reporting at the time].

You have two choices. Do nothing or take matters into your own hands. This is what the two brothers did. They started backfires which worked and not only saved their home, but also the homes of others in the area. According to this LA times article which states:

Outraged authorities arrested Ross Curtis, 48, on Friday on suspicion of illegally setting a backfire after disobeying official orders to stop.

His older brother, Micah, remains in Big Sur but is acting like a wanted man, dodging sheriff’s deputies when he descends from the homestead to Highway 1.

“I understand what’s going on. They don’t want a bunch of idiots setting off fires that could do more harm than good,” Micah Curtis, a 57-year-old artist, said as he walked the scene of the crime Saturday. “But we saved our homes. I’m not asking them to condone it, but they’ve got to understand it.”

As fires approach, homeowners often take up garden hoses to face down flames. But for them to light backfires is rare, authorities say — and they’d like it to stay that way.

Cliff Williams, the law enforcement official with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection who arrested Ross Curtis, said fire crews went to the ridge several times and ordered a stop.

Instead, the brothers kept up their rebel battle.

“Mr. Curtis over a period of three days decided he wanted to fight the fire his way,” Williams said. “So he started setting backfires.”

And that tricky firefighting technique, Williams said, is best left to professionals backed up by full crews and fire engines. Such fires can blow out of control, he said, burning other houses or inadvertently trapping people.

The brothers, who live with relatives and several tenants in a terraced collection of artsy, redwood-sided homes, including one fashioned from an old water tank, say they knew there were risks but believed there was too much at stake not to take action.

One can see both sides to this issue. Setting back fires can be extremely dangerous.  However, there are always exceptions to the rule. In this case an exception should be made. It is apparent that Arnie and his fire people were overwhelmed and were not able to respond to every fire situation in a timely manner.

But what do you think? Should these brothers be prosecuted? Would a jury find them guilty or not? Is it just a waste of the courts time?

Comments welcome.


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I have been writing for Lockergnome for eight years.

  • George

    they should not be prosecuted in my opinion, for saving their home and other peoples home. the problem is, they could have just as easily killed people accidentally. if everone started lighting backfires, there would be a lot of problems. The police are clearly trying to make an example to say “don’t light backfires.” so, in the end. if it prevents more deaths my arresting these guys…maybe its worth it? i dont know. sucks for them though.

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  • philly gal

    I think they should get a medal, not arrested. Lives were surely already in danger before they took any action at all. I think people should be free to take extraordinary measures when the situation calls for it. Put me on the jury and I would let them off without a second thought.

    Wildfires are one of the scariest things I’ve ever encountered. Worse even than being caught very near a hurricane in the middle of the ocean on a tiny little boat. Those guys had a lot of guts and clearly must have had some idea of what they were doing. I don’t believe for a second that people are going to run right out and start fires just because it worked in this one case. Most of us are just not that brave. We would run for our lives.