Solano County fire smoke blankets Bay Area on busy day of fires

SF Gate; Peter DaSilva

A flurry of Northern California wildfires made RVers and residents nervous as firefighters scrambled to put out several fires Sunday, including a fast-spreading grass fire in Solano County as gusty winds spread smoke throughout the Bay Area, where residents were already on high alert.

The biggest blaze, called the Branscombe Fire, broke out Sunday morning at Travis Air Force Base in Solano County and quickly raced south, blackening more than 4,000 acres by nightfall, reported SF Gate.

It jumped Highway 12, which was briefly closed in both directions Sunday, and was moving toward Grizzly Island, a state wildlife area.

One residence, a barn and at least two vehicles were destroyed and more were threatened, said Don Ryan, the emergency services manager for Solano County. He said Grizzly Island Road, which provides access to the wildlife area, was closed to all traffic.

The grass fire was 70 percent contained Sunday night, Ryan said, and Grizzly Island itself appeared to be safe. Still, the fast spread of the flames, which were pushed by hot, swirling winds similar to the gale that spread the devastating Wine Country fires a year ago, gave fire crews a scare.

It was moving so fast early in the day that local firefighters asked the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to send helicopters and air tankers to bombard the flames with water and flame retardant.

“We’re getting reports of people saying there is pretty heavy smoke,” said Kristine Roselius, a spokeswoman for the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. “We weren’t expecting it to get all the way to the South Bay so quickly, but it was quite windy, and the winds were spreading the wildfire smoke.”

The National Weather Service reported Sunday afternoon that the spreading smoke was affecting aircraft approaches to San Francisco International Airport.

Several other smoky blazes contributed to the haze. A 15-acre brush fire was extinguished around noon near the Interstate 80-Interstate 505 interchange in Vacaville.

Fires were also reported near Morgan Hill, where Cal Fire battled the 62-acre Park Fire at Monterey Road and Coyote Creek Golf Drive.

Evacuations were ordered in Tehama County, where two fires burned 3,848 acres. 

The East Bay and North Bay hills and the Santa Cruz Mountains are under a red-flag alert until Monday morning. The area covered by the warning extends north to Redding.

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