oakley veg fire

Firefighters responded to a vegetation fire in Oakley, Thursday, Oct. 10. The fire burned 2-3 acres near Wells and Bethel Island roads. 

In the waning hours of this week’s red flag conditions, it appeared as though East County would escape the region’s hazardous fire conditions unscathed until a column of thick black smoke began to rise along Oakley’s border with Bethel Island shortly after 2 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10.

Firefighters from the East Contra Costa (ECCFPD) and the Contra Costa County fire protection districts arrived to find the blaze that would eventually grow to two acres burning near the intersection of Wells and Bethel Island roads. In a lucky twist, the wind that caused so many problems across the state may have actually helped keep the fire contained.

“The direction of the wind kept the fire from entering Hennis Marina, and was putting the fire into an empty field to the south of Wells Road,” said ECCFPD Battalion Chief Craig Auzenne. “Crews were able to stop the fire from going any further south.”

As the blaze made its way into thick vegetation, the intensity of the fire and the size of the flames grew dramatically.

“The berry bushes put off a lot of heat and big flames, sometimes 10 to 20 feet up in the air,” said Auzenne. “(There was) a lot of smoke. I believe the black smoke today was from the old telephone poles. If you look around there’s a lot of old telephone poles.”

Auzenne said the cause had not yet been determined, but did note firefighters have been called to the same location at least one other time in recent months.

“It’s my second time here within the last three months,” said Auzenne. “We had no cause from the last fire. All we had was reports from bystanders with the assumption that it could have been a homeless encampment. This is a known area – over in the eucalyptus trees and berry bushes – as a homeless camp.”

Forward motion on the fire was stopped in about an hour, but crews remained on scene until after 7 p.m. extinguishing hot spots and ensuring the fire did not flare up again. PG&E was also called to the incident because several utility poles were damaged by fire.