District Attorney: No Criminal Charges to Be Filed in 3,100 Acre Mt. Diablo Fire



District Attorney Mark A. Perterson announced today that there will be no charges filed in the September Morgan Territory Fire that burned 3,100 acres on Mt. Diablo.

According to the Press Release, there is no evidence the fire was intentionally started.  There is no evidence that the use of the involved rifle or ammunition in that area was in violation of state law.



District Attorney Mark A. Peterson announced today that his office had completed a thorough examination of all of the evidence gathered in the investigation of the 3100 acre Morgan Territory fire that started on September 8, 2013 and burned for several days before being fully contained and extinguished.  This included reviewing a report prepared by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection regarding the fire.

The evidence indicates that at approximately 1:00 p.m. on September 8, 2013 an individual was on his family owned property located on Morgan Territory Road in an unincorporated area of Clayton.  On the private property was an area that was designed and used as a rifle range.  On September 8, the individual was target practicing with a rifle at this range, which he had done previously on numerous occasions. While target practicing, one of the steel projectiles fired by the shooter impacted against a rock, caused a spark, and started a fire in an area of dry grass.    Immediately upon seeing the flames, the individual attempted to extinguish the fire but was unable to do so.  He contacted a family member who called 911.  When fire personnel responded, the individual was cooperative with them and assisted them in their efforts.

Within 30 minutes of the 911 call, fire personnel had arrived and had the fire contained to ½ of an acre.  Unfortunately, as the fire was being “mopped up,” a “spot fire” from the original fire started about 1,000 feet away from the original fire, causing a second fire which grew out of control and eventually consumed 3,100 acres.

There is no evidence the fire was intentionally started.  There is no evidence that the use of the involved rifle or ammunition in that area was in violation of state law.  There is no evidence that this particular phenomenon had occurred before in that area, or with this particular individual.  There is little evidence that someone would know or should know that a discharged projectile would or could cause a fire in this way.

We are fully aware of the tremendous harm to property and the environment caused by the fire; 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.

If you recall, at the height of the fire,  cooperating agencies included:

CAL FIRE, East Contra Costa Fire Protection District, Contra Costa Fire Protection District, San Ramon Valley Fire, East Bay Regional Parks, CALOES, CDCR, California State Parks, California Highway Patorl, CalTrans, Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department, Contra Costa Public Works, Clayton PD, PG&E, America Red Cross and the Salvation Army.

  • Total Fire Personnel: 1,413
  • Total Fire Engines: 143
  • Total Fire Crews: 38
  • Total Airtankers: 4
  • Total Helicopters: 5
    Total Dozers: 19
  • Total Water Tenders: 10


  1. The decision was proper. It is terrible that the fire got out of control, Thanks to all the agencies that came to the rescue and worked together to bring this rural fire under control. The well trained wild land firefighters at Cal Fire and the back up cover on structures by others really paid off in the long run. This fire will remain in our minds for awhile. Good job by all.

  2. Still curious about why helicopter water dumps weren’t happening by 1:45pm… there was NO wind, the smoke was rising in a vertical column directly above the initial site.

  3. Lynne
    Sounds like someone thought they had it under control and really didn’t. You can get the entire dispatch from this site when they originally posted the fire. This site followed the info as it happened. Good job on the news part too.

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