FAIRFIELD — A four-alarm grass fire Sunday along Highway 12 forced the evacuation of several homes and stopped traffic as a cadre of firefighters from the surrounding areas converged to battle the fast-moving blaze.
The fire also tapped out the city’s firefighting resources.
Fairfield fire crews responded about 2 p.m. to the creek just east of the Meyer Corp. property where a vegetation fire sent clouds of white and black smoke into the sky. The wind-swept fire was quick to spread along the creek in an area known for its homeless encampments and was upgraded to two alarms, then to four alarms to draw more resources to the scene.
The Fire Department called for backup – in the form of a strike team – shortly after 2:15 p.m. from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, noting on social media a lack of available resources.
Fairfield police shut down westbound Highway 12 at Pennsylvania Avenue at around 2:30 p.m. due to dense smoke from the fire. Eastbound Highway 12 was closed about 10 minutes later at Beck Avenue. The closures prompted a severe traffic alert from the regional Transportation Management Center.
A convoy of Cal Fire fire engines, water tenders and bulldozers in tow arrived to the scene as the fire worked its way over the creek and into a neighboring field of dry grass. A Cal Fire plane also responded and dropped a couple of doses of red fire retardant from above the creek.
Fairfield Battalion Chief Bob Stoffel said crews were prepared for the fire to jump the creek, but it also jumped the highway about a quarter-mile away, moving into a field next to the Fairfield Police Department’s Art Koch Range and Training Facility on Rex Clift Lane, where responders had set up a command center.
“I thought we had it held at the creek,” he said.
Mandatory evacuations were ordered for residents on the 1400 and 1500 blocks of James Street. About 20 homes were evacuated.
Stoffel said the fire burned about 15 acres. Responders included the Vallejo, Vacaville and Dixon fire departments well as the Suisun and Montezuma fire protection districts. The fire was mostly contained by about 3:15 p.m. and was reported as under control shortly after 3:45 p.m.
Both westbound and one eastbound lane of Highway 12 were open by 4:15 p.m. The final lane reopened at 5:50 p.m.
Stoffel said the cause of the fire was under investigation.
Glen Faison contributed to this report. Reach Adrienne Harris at 427-6956 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/aharrisdr.