Investigators probing a huge wildfire that began at a vineyard owned by Constellation Wines believe a firework used to scare birds may have started the blaze.
Anyone found responsible for starting the blaze in Monterey County, California, could be landed with a bill for US$4m – the cost of fighting the four-day-long fire.
Nearly 6,500 acres (2,300ha) of grassland in an area northeast of Soledad were destroyed in the blaze, which started on 27 August and was finally put out on Monday evening.
100 homes and 50 commercial properties had to be evacuated while firefighters battled the flames.
California fire department investigators searching the source of the fire adjacent to the Constellation vineyard – whose exact location and name are unconfirmed – found fragments of a ‘bird-bomb’, an agricultural firework used in vineyards as a bird-scarer.
Unconfirmed reports have suggested that vineyard workers were in the area at the time the fire started. Motorists reported the blaze on the nearby Highway 101.
‘We will continue working with investigators and fire officials as they assess the cause of the fire,’ a Constellation Wines spokesperson told decanter.com. ‘Until the cause has been determined, this is all the information we have.’
Constellation is yet to assess the extent of any vineyard damage.
The California fire department expects the investigation into the blaze to take about another week.
Written by Richard Woodard