“Flaming basketball” suspected of destroying California home

The home of a Northern California man may have been destroyed last week by a meteor that looked like a flaming basketball falling from the sky.

In Nevada County, about 60 miles northeast of Sacramento, Dustin Procita was home with his two dogs Friday when he heard “a big bang” in his usually quiet community.

“I started to smell smoke, and I went on to my porch, and it was completely engulfed in flames,” reported Procita.

Penn Valley Fire Department received the fire call at 7:26 p.m. Firefighters responded to Englebright Dam Road in response to the fire. According to Cal Fire spokesperson Mary Eldridge, the fire was contained almost three hours after Cal Fire began to assist.

Eldridge said a dog died in the fire, which consumed a house, a travel trailer, and a pickup truck.

An investigation is underway to determine if Procita’s house was struck by a meteor.

“That is a potential cause, but it’s too early to pinpoint one,” Fire Captain Clayton Thomas said. “I can say that during the incident many people approached the fire department to say they saw a potential meteor fall in that area. What we haven’t seen yet is any video or witness say that it struck an actual structure.”

Thomas added that the department may take several weeks to determine what caused the problem.

NASA reports that comet Encke leaves debris and dust behind every year between September and November. During the Taurid meteor shower, debris hits the Earth’s atmosphere at 65,000 mph and burns up.

“Most years the shower is weak, and only a few Taurid meteors can be seen each night,” NASA wrote in a blog post in 2015. “Other years, the Taurids can put on a show.”

After seeing a video of what appeared to be a meteorite, Procita said it had the appearance of a “flaming basketball.”

“Definitely feel very lucky that it was 30 feet away from me and not 5,” commented Procita.

As far as Procita is concerned, he considers himself lucky.

“They said it’s a 1 in 4 trillion chance, so I guess I might be buying a lottery ticket today,” he said.