Saturday, January 31, 2015
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

Wind-whipped fire burns 2 Cordelia homes

21 680 fire 2

Firefighters respond to a fire near Cordelia Road and Interstate 680 in rural Fairfield, Friday. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

By
From page A1 | June 21, 2014 |

CORDELIA — Shamar Baz knows the gusting afternoon winds of Cordelia well. The nine-year Cordelia resident and mother watched the winds carry flames across parched fields near her house Friday afternoon.

Baz got her children safely out of her home while her husband fought a futile battle using a garden hose to stave off the flames that burned the backyard fence before destroying her kid’s playground and three storage sheds.

The Baz family got lucky. Other than some smoke damage, their house was spared. Two of their neighbors were not so lucky.

3:44 p.m.

The first firefighters pulled up onto the shoulder of southbound Interstate 680 just before the Cordelia Road overpass a few minutes after 911 calls reported smoke alongside the freeway.

A firefighter reported a patch of dead grass and weeds were burning. He estimated the burn area to be about 20 feet wide and about a 100 feet long. He also reported ominously a moderate rate of spread.

“It probably started out this big,” a soot-dappled Cordelia Fire Protection District firefighter said later, using his thumb and forefinger to make a gesture about the size of a cigarette butt.

It took seven minutes until the gusting east winds carried red-hot embers to the dead grass along the center divide. A second fire crew was dispatched. A third engine crew was called up two minutes later.

4:19 p.m.

As the Friday afternoon commute turned terrible, firefighters lost their battle against the wind and the flames.

More than 30 minutes after it started, the fire carried over to the other side of the freeway, quickly pushing its way east with the winds. Within minutes, the fire fight turned into a defensive battle and fire crews from as far away as Dixon and Napa were called up.

Solano County sheriff’s deputies and firefighters began evacuating the 40 to 50 homes that were in the possible path of the flames.

One Ritchie Road homeowner alternated between tears and prayers as she watched flames and dense black smoke make their way toward her home. Firefighters saved the home.

Three propane tanks in a nearby backyard exploded, adding to the roar of the spreading flames and sending residents and gawkers farther back from the fire.

A Vallejo fire crew pulled up to the evacuated Thompson’s Corner tavern just in time to douse nearby burning oak trees and grass. Behind the landmark tavern, firefighters dragging hoses disappeared into the hot, dense smoke coming from flames that threatened a row of nearby homes.

Overhead, spotters in two California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection airplanes began giving updates on the battle. By 5:30 p.m., a Cal Fire helicopter began dumping buckets of water on the hottest parts of the fire, which had spread to approximately five acres.

It was a five-alarm fire at the height of the battle.

6:15 p.m.

After more than two hours of watching the color of smoke go from black to brown to white and then back to black as the wind carried flames to new fuel, firefighters got the upper hand on the blaze.

One Cordelia Road home was totally destroyed by the fire. Another nearby home was badly damaged.

Red Cross officials were working with authorities at a nearby command post.

The smoke faded about the same time as the commute traffic unsnarled.

Fire crews kept pouring cold water onto hot spots surrounding several homes.

“Were going to be here all night,” Battalion Chief Bob Stoffel of the Fairfield Fire Department said. “And probably all day tomorrow, too.”

Stoffel said it would be late into the night before residents evacuated from the fire would be able to return to their homes, although by sunset some residents were walking their neighborhood, looking at the charred black fields and yards where flames came within a few feet of their homes.

The fire was deemed under control shortly before 8 p.m.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.
LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 15 comments

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  • DudeJune 21, 2014 - 8:50 am

    At least they saved Thompsons Corner...

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The KiltJune 21, 2014 - 10:33 am

    Way to go Fairfield Fire!!!!! Small grass fire gets out of control and burns down homes!!!!! Are we starting to see a trend!!!!!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • CD BrooksJune 21, 2014 - 10:42 am

    The Kilt, LOL! I We're a cynical bunch on this site and nobody gets away with anything. Cracking me up here! :)

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • DudeJune 21, 2014 - 11:49 am

    Funny, the Cordelia Fire Dept. is just a few hundred yards down the street next to Thompsons Corner. Would have been ironic if it had burned down.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • abramJune 21, 2014 - 11:39 am

    No trend they are just afraid of fire, yet they act like they are FDNY. THEY AREN'T FIREMEN

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • JuliaJune 21, 2014 - 12:32 pm

    Kilt, I'm not sure exactly where the fire started, but the house that burned is *not* in the City of Fairfield - it's unincorporated. The Cordelia Fire District (operated separately from the City's fire department) has jurisdiction. CFD's fire house is literally a block up the street across from Thompson's corner.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • The KiltJune 21, 2014 - 2:43 pm

    Small grass fire on 80 by the truck scales sets fire to hotel !!!!!! Small grass fire on 80 burns down multiple homes on marigold !!!!! Don't get me started on the downtown commercial fires. Keep up the good work fairfield fire.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • SamJune 21, 2014 - 10:48 am

    If Cal Trans and the Fairfield city had cut the weeds and trim the trees which is fire prevention as they advocate, this may have been prevented. I have large city owed pine trees behind my house with lots of pine needles. They will not trim their trees or pick up the pine needles, causing another fire hazard to homes.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • abramJune 21, 2014 - 11:37 am

    Ffd, non aggressive fire department that embarrasses other fire departments and firefighters like myself...... so glad I don't work for them.....they think they are the best around and really they are one of the worst departments I've seen! Bad medics when I worked on the ambulance and bad firemen. They act like they are studs and the are afraid to fight fire. When they do let fire beat them, they act like it was crazy and they killed it. Kids die on a fire bc they didn't get in it, homes burn down off road side fires bc they are afraid to attack it. Ffd your a funny joke! Just call Vallejo and vacaville to do your work for you!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • FredJune 21, 2014 - 11:58 am

    Well at least the fire trucks had a place to park. Finally someone got some use out of that fancy new sidewalk no one uses.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • EMSgirl64June 21, 2014 - 12:08 pm

    Abram: What?! You're a FF/Medic?! Hahahaha!! Bull****! If you ever actually become one, you may consider brushing up on your grammar. Oh, and I bet you use words like, 'hella' in your PCR? Wait! Doubt you know what a PCR is. Wanna-be.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • mike gregorJune 21, 2014 - 12:07 pm

    The auto industry should reinstall ashtrays. Good grief why doesn't it sink in ?

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • ktmattyJune 21, 2014 - 12:15 pm

    My taxpayer dollars used to help someone in need, totally OK! My problem is with the person who threw their cigarette out the window. I think the fine for this should be mandatory $25,000 and 90 days in jail. We should be able to report them and make it an incredible burden for anyone who does this. Maybe they won't be so selfish and careless. I commute down 680 every day and see this happen often.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • PaqkleaderJune 21, 2014 - 12:42 pm

    Long live Thompson's corner!

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • MelissaJune 23, 2014 - 6:20 pm

    It was actually the Cordelia Fire District that saved Thompson's Corner.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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