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Fire on the mountain!

Mount Diablo, from Huckleberry Regional Preserve

 

The Morgan Fire, which broke out Sunday afternoon has TRIPLED in area and burned more that 3,700 acres of dry brush and old oak trees on Mount Diablo (1, 2). This morning, as I drove to school, the mountain looked like a volcano, with a thick column of smoke rising and then flattening against the sky. Outdoor lunches and outdoor Physical Education classes were driven indoors by the poor air quality. According to SFGate.com:

The historic visitor center and lookout on Mount Diablo was saved – at least for now.

Flames and thick plumes of smoke rising from the top of the 3,848-foot mountain gave the East Bay’s tallest peak the look of a volcano, forcing the evacuation of animals and livestock below, and prompting air pollution advisories in three neighboring counties. Danville and Pleasanton, among other cities, called off some outdoor events for youth and adults.

At lower reaches, crews bulldozed containment lines in an effort to protect roads and ranches. Overhead, three helicopters and as many as six airplanes dropped water and retardant on hot spots. Winds pushed the fire “back on itself” for most of the day, officials said, allowing firefighters to push containment to 20 percent.

My students came in with night photos of flames reaching the sky!

SFGate.com continues:

“We don’t have the fire established at solid control lines yet,” said Dave Shew, a spokesman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. “The size (of the fire) is going to increase for a while.”

The good news was that the blaze was burning mostly in remote wilderness areas of Mount Diablo State Park, where structural damage was limited to a small outbuilding. No homes were lost, and just one injury – a firefighter with a hurt foot – was reported. The cause of the fire remained unknown.

More than 700 firefighters were working to keep the blaze within the park, the heart of the battle being in isolated ravines near the summit where crews were trying to stop the fire from spreading.

“There’s a lot of fuel here: manzanita, oak – very thick, very thick,” said state firefighter Grant Griffin as he watched flames leap as high as 40 feet in the air Monday afternoon from the side of a canyon high in the park.

A bulldozer had just cut a fire break sweeping south from Summit Road, and Griffin and the rest of his crew were fighting with hoses, shovels and axes to keep the surging blaze from crossing either the break or the road.

There were evacuation orders for about 100 homes “…east of Mount Diablo State Park, along Curry Canyon Road and in the Oak Hill Lane area. About a dozen people stopped by an evacuation center at the Clayton Community Library, though most made arrangements to stay elsewhere.”

And then there are the animals, both wild and domestic….

Many ranchers of the area evacuated their horses to safer locations. Coyotes and rabbits, along with the legendary tarantulas of Mount Diablo, sought shelter from the flames and heat. Temperatures in the area ranged from the upper 90s to around 100 degrees F today.

Tobey Nichols, who grew up in Clayton and now lives in Concord but works at the Clayton Community Church, said he had seen fires in the area before, but added, “This is the biggest wildfire we’ve had since I’ve lived here.”

The same is true for me. We have lived here a little over 20 years.

SFGate.com says:

Firefighters succeeded early Monday in saving the Mount Diablo lookout, a visitor center called the Summit Museum that dates to the 1930s. The blaze burned within 50 feet, but firefighters kept the flames from advancing on the sandstone building.

“The building seems to be OK for now, but the fire could still take a turn and climb back up,” said Dennis Rein, a spokesman for the Moraga Orinda Fire District.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory Monday, recommending that residents in parts of Contra Costa, Alameda and Santa Clara counties – particularly the elderly, children and those with respiratory problems – limit or avoid exposure.

-Bill at

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