FAIRFIELD (CBS/AP/BCN) — Residents were trying to pick up the pieces a day after a grass fire tore through a Fairfield neighborhood, destroying five homes and damaging 10 others.

Fairfield Fire Battalion Chief Matt Luckenbach, who tallied the destruction Wednesday from the blaze in the 2800 block of Marigold Drive, said the damage estimate would likely be well over $1 million.

About 50 people fled as the wind-driven fire that started Tuesday afternoon in some grass near Interstate 80 jumped a creek, skipped a freeway sound wall and raced through the neighborhood, spreading through vegetation and treetops.

The seven-alarm blaze eventually grew to 40 acres as nearly 200 firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Solano, Yolo and Contra Costa counties took more than two hours to get the flames under control.

Martin Lalor, who lived in one of the five gutted homes with his mother, girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter, said Wednesday that he and his daughter were home alone when the fire overran their street.

“I turned around and saw that my palm tree was on fire. At that time, I went inside the house and looked out my back window there was just smoke,” Lalor said. “I couldn’t see any flames, I just saw smoke. I grabbed my daughter and got her out of here.”

Lalor said he lost everything in his home.

“I picked up some of my guitars and they were just burned to a crisp — strings and just metal pieces,” Lalor said.

Among the five families who lost their home, the American Red Cross assisted one family, while the other four households were able to stay with loved ones, Luckenbach said.

Lalor stayed with relatives Tuesday night. He was wearing his brother’s clothes Wednesday and said he has several tasks in order to get his life back together, including getting a new driver’s license and Social Security card.

“(I’m) just trying to adjust and take it day by day to figure this out and try to get back on our feet,” Lalor said.

Besides the destroyed homes that authorities have declared uninhabitable, Luckenbach said 10 others sustained some damage, including holes in roofs, broken doors and shattered windows.

“There was the potential for a lot more,” said Luckenbach, who said crews were putting out hot-spots Wednesday along with investigators who were trying to determine what caused the fire.

He urged homeowners to clear leaves and pine needles from rain gutters, noting that vegetation behind the homes—including leaves from palm trees, cypress trees and pine needles—appeared to have fueled the flames during Tuesday’s fire.

City of Fairfield spokeswoman Gale Spears said a city disaster recovery team assessed the 10 damaged homes Wednesday and would do so again Thursday before allowing residents to re-enter the area.

“We want to help those recover whatever they can, but, at this point, we want to make sure it’s safe,” Spears said.

(Copyright 2013 by CBS San Francisco, the Associated Press and Bay City News Service. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)


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