A fast-moving fire sparked by a man working with a power tool damaged multiple structures and vehicles at a residence on the 3500 block of Knightsen Avenue in Knightsen Tuesday evening, July 16.
“Definitely on a day like today, with the dry grasses, the low humidity and the wind driven through the area – an area surrounded by grassland – it’s not the smartest decision this gentleman made,” said East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD) Fire Marshal Steve Aubert.
ECCFPD firefighters were joined by crews from the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District and Cal Fire as they battled the flames for nearly an hour before the blaze was brought under control. Live utility wires damaged by the fire fell across the incident scene and remained live for more than an hour before PG&E crews arrived to shut the power off. Aubert said that the hazard impeded firefighting operations.
“The live wires did drop very early on,” said Aubert. “Immediately, that becomes a safety hazard to our crews. We do make a notification to avoid that area. That’s where it causes us to do a defensive operation at that point in time. We don’t want any of our firefighters going in there and having an accidental electric shock.”
Weather conditions contributed to the rapid spread of the fire, and flames damaged a home, outbuildings and a tractor-trailer rig. Occupants of the home were hurriedly evacuated without injury. Firefighters contained the flames to the home’s garage, but the remainder of the structure suffered smoke and water damage.
“Even from the initial reports, it started off small and spread very quickly due to the nature of the wind that was blowing it,” said Aubert. “With all the dry grass, it went straight into the trees and spread from there.”
By the time firefighters arrived on scene, the fire had already crossed Knightsen Avenue and threatened a second home. A crew managed to stop the fire just as it reached the exterior of the home, and it escaped damage.
Oakley police were forced to drag the man — who was later identified as having caused the fire — from the scene, as he refused to evacuate. The man was detained by police, but as of press time, it’s unknown whether any charges were filed.
Traffic on Knightsen Avenue was stopped in both directions while operations were active. No civilian or firefighter injuries were reported during the incident.