The Sonoma County Sheriff’s Department made an arrest in connection with the Aug. 22 Guerneville fire that destroyed three commercial buildings.
Jennifer Swan, 50 of Guerneville was arrested on Wednesday, Sept. 8. Swan is being held at the Sonoma County jail under $500,000 bail.
“With the help of our dogged Sonoma Sheriff Detectives, our tenacious Fire Investigators and help from the public we are happy to report that an arrest has been made in connection with the August 22, 2021 structure fire that occurred on Main St. in Guerneville,” the Sonoma County Fire Department wrote on its Facebook page late Wednesday afternoon.
Multiple 911 calls alerted Sonoma County Fire District just after 10 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 22 according to Sonoma County Fire District Division Fire Chief Marshal Cyndi Foreman.
“Flames had fully engulfed the building that used to be the ice cream shop and were in the print shop, which was an active business,” Foreman said.
Crews were able to stop the flames from entering Gypsy Sisters Consignment store. Gypsy Sisters had moved to Guerneville from Forestville prior to the pandemic.
The consignment store has been operating for 13 years, according to owner Cherie Sexton.
“We have a steady amount of single mamas who use and rely on our shop as an outlet to provide for their families as well,” Sexton wrote in a recently started GoFundMe page for the shop. “This saddens me above anything.”
Even though the shop didn’t burn, it sustained heavy damage due to the buildings’ post and pier system.. Flames licked underneath the building, Foreman said.
“The buildings are all red tagged and condemned,” Foreman said.
Foreman said crews from Guerneville, Gold Ridge, Monte Rio and CalFire remained on the scene until 3:30 or 4 a.m. Monday morning to ensure kindle didn’t reignite.
“We put a lot of water on this, about 15,000 gallons,” Foreman said.
She added that structure fires differ from wildland fires. Buildings collapse, making it difficult for water to get into where the fire and heat survive. Because of that, firefighters use firefighting foam, which helps water stick to the structures that are aflame.
The downside to the chemicals is that they have nowhere to go.
“It sounds weird to say this in a drought, but now we have to focus on cleanup before the next rain or next storm,” said Tennis Wick, head of Permit Sonoma. “We have to make sure all of these contaminants and water are off of this property and contained.”
Wick and another Permit Sonoma staffer were onsite early Monday morning to investigate and ultimately red-tag, or condemn the property. The next step is to demolish the buildings.
“We’ve already applied for demo permits for the property owner and we expect it to happen expeditiously,” Wick said.
The building is owned by Harman Dhillon. Dhillon owns MD Liquor in Guerneville and is working on a renovation of the MD Gas Station on River Road, on the south side of Guerneville. Fifth District Supervisor Lynda Hopkins wrote on Facebook that this is the third building of Dhillon’s to catch fire.
“This is the third building owned by this particular landlord to catch fire. I have attempted to meet with this owner several times about various properties, and he only followed through with attending a scheduled meeting once,” Hopkins wrote.
This is the second time in the past year the building has sustained damage. Foreman said prior to the pandemic, a car ran into the ice cream shop.
“It was already uninhabitable,” Foreman said.