PLACERVILLE, Calif. – A rainstorm helped firefighters gain control of wildfires burning across the Sierra Nevada, including a nearly 17,000-acre blaze and a smaller fire ignited by a suspected arsonist in Yosemite National Park.
The 16,800-acre fire in the Eldorado National Forest was about 50 percent contained Sunday because of the heavy rain, said state Department of Forestry and Fire Protection spokeswoman Donna Winkelman.
Meanwhile, a 7,700-acre fire in Eldorado was fully contained. And the 2,000-acre fire in a remote section of Yosemite was mostly snuffed out by the rain.
Investigators suspect a body found in Yosemite with a handgun and propane torch nearby is that of Richard Celebrini, 32, a former stock market day trader, police Sgt. Tom Hansen said.
The bodies of Celebrini’s wife, Michelle Celebrini, 32, and her daughters, Nina Celebrini, 6, and Samantha Foutch, 9, were discovered Saturday in their two-story house in Brentwood, a fast-growing community about 50 miles east of San Francisco.
Investigators believe Celebrini killed the three before traveling to Yosemite to start the 2,000-acre blaze. Positive identification of the Yosemite body was pending. Park spokesman Scott Gediman said the man appears to have died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The larger Eldorado National Forest fire was half contained Sunday and a section of Highway 88 that had been closed was reopened. However, drivers were warned of “extremely hazardous conditions” because of poor visibility, Winkelman said. The fire was not expected to be fully contained until the weekend because of a large amount of dead trees and brush around the site.
Although the smaller Eldorado fire was contained, a portion of Highway 50, which links Sacramento and South Lake Tahoe, remained closed. At least some residents who had been evacuated were allowed to return home.