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Crews Battle 3 Fires In Sonoma, Napa Counties

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A wildfire burns in the North Bay.  (CBS)

A wildfire burns in the North Bay. (CBS)

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PETALUMA (CBS SF) — Three vegetation fires were blazing in Napa and Sonoma counties Wednesday, an indication of the early start of fire season in the Bay Area and throughout the state, fire authorities said.

A Napa County fire near the 7300 block of the Silverado Trail started Tuesday night was about 60 percent contained Wednesday, while the Yellow Fire in Sonoma County burned 125 acres of oak woodland and rolling hills east of Healdsburg and was 50 percent contained, Cal Fire officials said.

The Summit Fire started Wednesday morning near Schramsberg Vineyards south of Calistoga in Napa County was on steep terrain, making it difficult to reach the 2 acres that are burning, fire officials said.

These fires are the most recent of several reported in the region since Monday.

CBS 5 Weather Center: Current Conditions

On Tuesday, a Benicia grass fire burned near Interstate Highway 780, several wildfires were reported in the dry grass areas surrounding Vacaville—including a fire Monday that charred 12 acres—while land near a San Jose golf course burned on Monday along with a fire in the hills near the senior community of Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.

A dry winter, warm temperatures and gusty winds are contributing to the high fire danger.

The past few days of warm weather that are expected to continue heating up with as much as a 10-degree temperature bump on Thursday are drying out grasses and other fuel for fires quicker.

Cal Fire San Benito-Monterey County fire investigator Richard Lopez said extra units are being called in as weather is getting warmer and drier.

“This is way, way early for us to be staffing at maximum levels,” Lopez said.

He said staffing is usually full at the end of May, but the early wind and heat has prompted increased coverage.

Over the winter, Lopez said brush and the ground didn’t have an opportunity to absorb much precipitation, and that brush and grasses are already as dry as they normally are in August and September.

He said residents have been informed about keeping 100-foot clearances around properties, and mowing and using other equipment for yard work before 10 a.m. when it is cooler.

“We’re trying to lessen the odds of a fire starting,” he said.

Open burns, such as in fire pits and barbecues, have been banned

in several Bay Area counties, including Monterey, Alameda and Contra Costa, effective Monday, he said.

Cal Fire Santa Clara County fire division chief Jim Crawford said the county’s unit will be staffing more because of more incidents anticipated early in the season.

“Based on conditions, it is appropriate,” Crawford said. “But it’s early.”

He said looking at weather conditions and the expected red flag warning prompted some early hiring.

“We’re try to balance to make sure we have resources available,” Crawford said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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