SUISUN CITY — A fire started at Highway 12 near Branscombe Road on Friday afternoon, took off with a north wind gusting more than 30 mph and soon covered more than 1,000 acres.
Flames burned in a line over the rural flatlands, over the Potrero Hills and into Suisun Marsh on the other side. This is for the most part a treeless region, with little to break the winds and plenty of dry brush for fuel.
The fire began at 12:10 p.m. and quickly went to eight alarms. By 1 p.m., flames could be seen both along the highway and also perhaps a mile away in the Potrero Hills. The fire then crested the hills and headed into Suisun Marsh.
“It could go miles in just a few minutes,” Dixon Fire Chief Aaron McAlister said at 2:30 p.m. as he stood along Highway 12, the wind whipping by.
Every fire department and district in Solano County responded, McAlister said. So did fire departments beyond the county, from Yolo, Napa and Contra Costa counties, he said. McAlister served as spokesman for the firefighting effort.
Highway 12 remained opened, but the Sheriff’s Office closed Grizzly Island Road leading into the marsh.
At 5:15 p.m., McAlister stood near where the fire met Suisun Marsh east of the Belden’s Landing boat launch. About 40 acres of marsh was burning and will probably continue to produce a large amount of smoke for the next few days, he said by phone. The fire was 70 percent contained.
“It’s going to spread, but really, really slow,” McAlister said, adding that water is under the tules, but the tules have high oil content that adds to the smoke.
One structure burned, McAlister said. That was a barn with hay. Several pieces of farm equipment associated with the barn worth more than $100,000 got destroyed, he said.
The fire threatened the Goodrich Interiors plant at one point, he said. This plant manufactures products for the military and aerospace industry and sits in isolation at the top of the Potrero Hills.
Two employees at Goodrich Interiors complained of smoke inhalation, McAlister said.
Schoolchildren got evacuated from an event at Rush Rush, he said. Rush Ranch is an open space area in Suisun Marsh owned by the Solano Land Trust.
Potrero Hills Landfill is in the Potrero Hills, but didn’t get shut down by the fire.
“It started east of us and given the speed of the wind, it kind of blew right past us,” said Jim Dunbar of Potrero Hills Landfill. “While we were ready water trucks, we didn’t have to mobilize anybody and evacuate anybody.”
Some of the grass on the landfill property got scorched, but not near the main operations area, he said.
The Bay Area Air Quality Management District on Friday afternoon issued a smoke advisory for parts of San Francisco, the East Bay and the peninsula area. It advised people to remain indoors to reduce exposure to smoky air.
But the Fairfield-Suisun area escaped the bad air, since the large clouds of smoke blew south of the cities.
A parade of fire trucks went down Highway 12 on Friday afternoon to Branscombe Road and Grizzly Island Road to reach the fire. Trucks could be seen from the county’s cities and fire districts, as well as the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Winters, Travis Air Force Base, American Canyon and Napa County.
The National Weather Service had issued a red flag fire warning for Solano County on Friday. It was due to expire at 11 p.m. Friday, barring any unexpected changes.
“This is classic fire weather,” McAlister said as the fire burned, citing the wind and the low humidity.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.