Best Western motel becomes Marin County's largest fire station

MARIN COUNTY, Calif. (KGO) -- A Best Western in Novato has been temporarily turned into the biggest fire station in Marin County, as strike teams stage to respond to fires in Marin and beyond, during this week's Red Flag Warning.

"Tonight is our first hurdle," said Novato Fire Department Battalion Chief, Gerald McCarthy.

"We're ready but tired."

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McCarthy is the leader of the strike team staged at the Best Western. He describes it as a new type of weather-related fire response.

"What you're seeing are major lessons learned from fires of the past."

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There are 36 extra firefighters and a fleet of engines paid for by the Governor's Office of Emergency Services. They chose the Best Western location, right along Highway 101, so they can take off in a matter of minutes to a fire in any direction.

McCarthy is worried about the wind, which is coming from the Northeast, the opposite of the Bay Area's normal onshore flow, that brings in cool fog and humidity.

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"It's akin to opening up an oven and having that warm dry air roll out of your oven. This is nature's version of it."

Novato Fire Captain Anthony Bargiacchi invited ABC7 to ride along in his engine, while he surveyed a nearby neighborhood.

"We want to make sure we try to prevent, if there were to be a fire, from it going from one section of the grass to the brush, to the trees," said Bargiacchi.

On a 110 degree day, Bargiacchi says they're doing their best to prepare, during an already hectic fire season. "We just had two strike teams come back that was on for 17 days non-stop".

Then, the radio sounded, and the strike team was off to assist on a nearby fire.

ABC7 crews caught up with firefighters on South Novato Blvd, where police said a homeless man set multiple fires in the area.

"While officers were at both scenes investigating it, we observed a third fire being lit at that time," said Sgt. Nick Frey with the Novato Police Department.

Novato PD said they arrested 55-year-old John Davies, who was booked into Marin County Jail for suspicion of committing multiple acts of arson. Nobody was injured and no structures were damaged.

"If someone is intentionally starting fires, it's just adding insult to injury with everything going on right now," said Sgt. Frey.

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To keep people and property safe through the red flag warning Wednesday morning, Marin County is closing parks and open spaces including Sky Oaks, Mount Tam State Park,and the Stinson Beach parking lot.
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