Multiple police officers, firefighters and engine crews responded to a report of smoke or fire at Intake Grill and in the rocky bed of Sonora Creek under South Washington Street between 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. Thursday.

Firefighters went into the kitchen at Intake Grill and spent time looking there. Meanwhile at least one Sonora police officer found a small fire in the creek under South Washington and used a bucket to try to extinguish the fire, said Aimee New, Sonora City Fire chief.

People in downtown Sonora could smell smoke, and a particular funky stench, from Coffill Park to the creekside deck tables at Mi Pueblo to up on South Washington and out back of Intake Grill on South Stewart Street.

The first call on the incident came at 11:45 a.m. about smoke at Intake Grill, New said.

“When we got on scene there was nothing showing from the exterior,” New said. “There was light smoke inside the building.”

Sonora police were already in the creek under South Washington and they found a small fire down there. Police found a bucket and used creek water to put the fire out. Then firefighters took portable fire extinguishers down there and put the remainder of the fire out, New said.

New said she could not discuss what material or materials were burning. She said Sonora police were investigating the cause of the fire.

The cause of the fire was still being investigated Thursday afternoon, Turu VanderWiel, chief of Sonora police, said after 4 p.m. It was too soon to determine whether the fire was intentional or an act of negligence.

“Although there has been transient activity in the area, it is unknown at this time if that factor played a role in the fire,” VanderWiel said. “A wooden structure support was burning along with some articles of trash.”

Four engine crews with about a dozen firefighters responded from Sonora City, Columbia, Jamestown and Mono Village, New said.

New and other firefighters who went down in the creek had to decontaminate afterwards, because they found signs of homeless people staying down there and they don’t have sanitary restrooms in the creek.

“Homeless have been under there,” New said. “We just routinely wash up and decontaminate any time we go into places where we come into contact with items we don’t know about. Homeless don’t have any place to use the bathroom down there.”

Sonora Creek flows through downtown Sonora before it joins Woods Creek further downstream below SaveMart.

Contact Guy McCarthy at gmccarthy@uniondemocrat.com or 588-4585. Follow him on Twitter at @GuyMcCarthy.

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