Official say Pittsburg fire is a preview for upcoming fire season

Officials say an intense brush fire near a Pittsburg power plant may be a preview of what to expect during the upcoming fire season.
March 21, 2014 5:08:25 PM PDT
The intense fire near a Pittsburg power plant Thursday may be a preview of what we here in the Bay Area and throughout the state can expect during the upcoming fire season. Already, fire officials say conditions look more like mid-summer than early spring.

Fire investigators now say they think a bird strike from a hawk's nest on top of one of the towers may have sparked this fire. They say there's no sign of a human cause. Whatever did start it, it may be one of the first of many this upcoming season.

Bay Area and California fire officials say this is just a sign of things to come. The 40-acre brush fire near a Pittsburg power plant was unusually aggressive, especially for this early in the season.

"This is not something we're used to seeing in March," said Contra Costa Fire Protection District Captain Robert Marshall. "This is something more typical of August that we would see. The only difference is the temperature is lower. We were lucky that the winds weren't higher and the humidity wasn't higher than it would be in the summer time."

Thanks to the drought, the fuels in California are ripe for fire, well before their normal time.

Despite the rains that turned the top grasses green, what lies beneath is still tinder dry and ready to burn.

According to Cal Fire, from Jan 1 to March 15 of this year, the state has already had more than 730 wildfires. Last year, there were 293 by this time. The average is 250.

"I'm very concerned," said Pittsburg resident Judy Barker.

Barker lives across Highway 4 from Thursday's brush fire and just a couple of blocks from a fire station on East Leland, which closed last year due to budget cuts.

"The drought with no rain and the dryness of the hills, and the grasses, and everything around and the fire they had over there yesterday really concerned me," she said.

According to Contra Costa fire officials, rigs from this station would've been among the first to arrive on Thursday. Instead, crews had to come from much farther away.

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