There are fires, and then there are fires.
Tuesday’s seven-alarm fire along Marigold Drive was perhaps the worst Fairfield has seen in recent times. Its scope – approximately 40 acres – and the mutual-aid response – nearly 200 firefighters from neighboring cities and counties in addition to a state strike team – is compounded by the destruction – five homes destroyed and 10 others damaged.
It could have been worse. Easily so.
The Summit Apartment were nearly caught up in the fast-moving fire, which burned through tall, dry vegetation behind homes along Marigold. Firefighters stopped the fire’s progress mere feet from the apartments. Had they caught fire, the destruction would likely have increased by an order of magnitude.
Still, there are 15 homes with fire damage. Many more have water damage, smoke damage or simply scorched lawns. More important, however, is this: No one died or was injured during the fire.
It’s a credit to the community that a new relief strike time, called the Solano Community Support Coalition, got its start the next day. Its purpose is to provide targeted relief to those affected by Tuesday’s fire.
I’m nearing my four-year anniversary here at the Daily Republic. During that time the city has seen what I consider more than its share of large fires.
Perhaps the granddaddy of them all in terms of pure spectacle was the July 26, 2011, fire at Macro Plastics.
The six-alarm fire at the Huntington Drive manufacturing plant sent dense, acrid, black smoke high into the skies above Fairfield. More than 100 firefighters from 15 different departments and fire districts spent hours fighting the fire, which at times presented a wall of hot, orange flames that you hope to only see in movies.
Pollution from the burning plastic bins also caused environmental concerns.
A five-alarm fire days shy of six months later on Jan. 12, 2012, destroyed a commercial building at 744 Empire St. It burned strongly for more than two hours and remained hot into the night, with firefighters on the scene overnight. Crews from Vacaville, Dixon, Travis Air Force Base and rural Rio Vista joined Fairfield and Suisun City fire crews in containing the fire to the single structure.
There’s life at the site, with facade work taking place now that the interior has been stripped clean, leaving only the outer walls to serve as the base for the future commercial office structure.
A year later, on Jan. 25, the Pepperbelly’s comedy club was gutted in a spectacular fire that shut down downtown as firefighters from across the refine converged on the city to keep the five-alarm blaze from spreading to adjacent downtown structures.
That’s a real fear in older downtowns such as we have here in Fairfield. Most of the downtown buildings along Texas Street date back decades, which means they are not built to current fire codes. Fire walls between the adjoining buildings? Likely not. Separating the rooflines? No way.
The city’s new ladder truck got put through its paces that night, as did other ladder trucks from nearby departments.
There have been other fires of note. The four-alarm fire June 18 at Motel 6 on Central Place, like Tuesday’s fire on Marigold Drive, started as a vegetation fire along Interstate 80 before winds whipped it up into something much more significant.
An eight-alarm vegetation fire roared through the Cement Hill area on Aug. 28, 2011, leaving 715 charred acres in its wake. The fire started inside the Fairfield city limits near Torrington Road but quickly spread to state-controlled land. It burned through that Saturday evening and well into the next day.
I was at Prime Rib in the Park the evening that fire started. I watched as a huge plume of smoke billowed into the sky, off in the distance. The newsroom crew that day dropped everything to cover the fire as it spread, drawing an estimated 250 firefighters to the area.
A similar scene played out during each of the other fires, including Tuesday’s.
The Delta breeze — which to my estimation is more like the Delta windstorm compared to the winds I’m accustomed to from my time in the central and southern San Joaquin Valley – contributes greatly to the area’s routine summer vegetation fires. Those winds also fan structure fires. So I get that I can expect Fairfield to experience major fires on a somewhat regular basis.
I also get that the area’s firefighters will keep those fires in check to the greatest extent possible, and will keep damage to an absolute minimum.
Reach Managing Editor Glen Faison at 427-6925 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GlenFaison.
This version corrects an incorrect reference in the original to Marigold Drive.