Bay Area heat wave adds to fire danger

May 14, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
A heat wave is the kind of weather that fuels wildfires and we've already seen several small grass fires break out on Wednesday. Bay Area firefighters are accustomed to it, but usually not this early in the year.

It's only the beginning of wildfire season and they're already popping up. Firefighters say a spark from a construction site started a grass fire on Wednesday in Antioch. It scorched about seven acres near the Highway 4 bypass and Laurel Road.

A second fire flared up Wednesday evening, along I-580 and Eden Canyon Road, near Castro Valley.

Another moonscaped hillside was left behind from a wildfire that burned right up to a Pleasanton neighborhood on Tuesday.

"Well looking from here there's a lot of green up there. I just wouldn't have thought of it yet," said Shelly Benzel, a Pleasanton Resident.

Firefighters are warning us not to be fooled by the rolling green hills because up close they're surrounded by cured, dead grass aided by a second year of dry conditions.

"There's enough dry grass on the hillside here to carry through this whole patch of green just like it was July or August," said Matt Thau from the Pleasanton Fire Department.

Before they can conduct prescribed burns, the firefighters have to wait until the grass is fully cured, which puts them in a precarious situation.

The Pleasanton and Castro Valley wildfires were fueled by grass that was not fully cured.

"Until we remove the fuels, there's still the threat of a fire occurring, much like the one that happened yesterday," said Thau.

Thau says it'll be about two weeks before the grass is fully cured. Until then, it's an anxious wait.

On Thursday temperatures are expected to spike in the 100's inland. The winds are expected to pick up and the relative humidity will dip. Perfect wildfire conditions during an unlikely month.