Marsh Complex Fire burns 757 acres

Photo by Tony Kukulich

Cal Fire airtankers drop retardant on the Marsh Complex Fire as it expands to 655 acres in rural Contra Costa County, Saturday, Aug. 3. A number of fires ignited along Marsh Creek Road between 3 and 4 a.m. Saturday morning and quickly spread in the dry grasslands. One firefighter was injured, but no structures were lost.

Shortly after 3 a.m., Saturday, Aug. 3, a series of nine fires began burning along Marsh Creek Road from the vicinity of Round Valley Regional Park to Morgan Territory Road – a situation that would take four days and hundreds of firefighters to extinguish, and what came to be called the Marsh Complex Fire.

The fire burned 757 acres of vegetation in rural Contra Costa County and efforts, particularly in the early hours of the blaze, prevented the loss of any homes or structures. Firefighters prioritized structure protection and moved from one location to another after the immediate danger passed, knowing that efforts to extinguish the fast-growing fire would be futile until additional resources arrived on scene. Much of that help was still hours away.

“A lot of it has to do with having incidents out there, knowing where the infrastructure is, knowing what the priorities are and understanding when not to get overly committed,” said East Contra Costa Fire Protection District Fire Chief Brian Helmick. “We’re going to let this thing bump by and when it’s done, we’re going to get to the next one. We’re not putting it out. We’re conserving our water. That’s experience. That’s training. That’s understanding the area. And remember, it’s 3:30 in the morning.”

Residents of Clayton Palms mobile home community were evacuated for a short time and a shelter in place order was put into effect. By 9 a.m., the nine fires had combined into three legs consuming 500 acres, and resources from around the region were pouring into the command center that had been established at Round Valley Regional Preserve. Cal Fire airtankers and helicopters began dropping retardant and water on the leading edges of the fire slowing its advance.

Duane Fisher lives on Marsh Creek Road. His home nearly burned in last year’s Marsh Fire, a 247-acre incident that burned along the south side of Marsh Creek Road and destroyed one home and a number of outbuildings.

“It was almost a year to the day, maybe a year and a couple days since last year’s fire, which was on our property,” said Fisher. “It’s real scary to wake up in the early morning and see the hills on fire.”

ECCFPD Fire Marshal Steve Aubert reported around noon Saturday the fire had grown to 655 acres, but its forward motion had been halted. Mop up operations continued until Cal Fire declared the fire extinguished Tuesday evening.

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