Dozens of firefighters battled the massive Ranch Fire blaze in Mendocino County, California, last July, which burned 410,203 acres and killed one firefighter. As it turns out, the fire was sparked by a lone man working to subdue a wasp nest.

“I smelled smoke, I turned around, and there it was,” Glenn Kile told the New York Times of the fire. “There was nothing I could do.”

In a newly released investigation report, Cal Fire revealed that a rancher sparked the blaze while hammering a metal stake into his yard to plug in the hole of a wasp nest. The report did not include the man’s name, but the Times identified the property owner as Kile, a former heavy equipment operator in his 50s.

According to the report, Kile agitated the underground wasp nest while doing yard work.

“[He] said he is allergic to bees and 24 waited for the yellow jackets to stop swarming,” the report states. “Once they did, [he] quickly hammered a 24-25 inch concrete stake into the ground to plug the hole … [He] said he smelled smoke and saw a vegetation fire next to where he was working.”

Kile told the Times he did what he could to put out the flames, using dirt, water and even an old carpet. Unsuccessful, he called 911 and firefighters were on the scene. The firefighting efforts would turn into a weeks-long ordeal, destroying more than 150 homes and injuring three people, Cal Fire reported.


“Mother Nature,” Kile said, “you have no control.”

It has been called the largest wildland fire in the state’s history, according to the Associated Press. Cal Fire said no charges will be filed in the incident, the AP reported.

The Ranch Fire burned alongside another blaze, with the pair earning the name “the Mendocino Complex,” according to the AP. The fires burned more than 700 square miles before being contained. Just a few weeks after the blazes were contained, a string of wildfires broke out and consumed headlines for weeks.



The Paradise Camp Fire broke out in early November 2018 and killed 85 people. It has been called the deadliest blaze in Northern California. The Hill and Woolsey Fires broke out the same day and burned about 100,000 acres.

As temperatures in the region spike, many are concerned about the possibility of new blazes. As for Kile, he told the Times that he’s considering heading to a more humid area as the heat sets in.

“Every time I turn the radio on, there’s another fire started here or there,” he told the publication. “I need to get away.”

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