AMERICAN CANYON (CBS SF) — An evacuation advisory was lifted and firefighters were winding down their intense fight against a grass fire burning in the hills west of Interstate 80 in American Canyon on Sunday.
The so-called American Fire began at around 3 p.m. One structure at the top of the hill was burned. Cal Fire said the fire was at 526 acres in size and 30% contained at 8 p.m.
Evacuation advisories were in effect for several streets in the area, meant for residents to be ready to evacuate at a moment’s notice. All evacuation orders and advisories as well as road closures were lifted in Napa County around 8:40 p.m.
— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) October 7, 2019
At least a dozen trucks were on scene (both fire engines and grass and wildland rigs) with a full response from Cal Fire.
Embers flew into the back of Jaimon Matthew’s property in the Cantada Court neighborhood, but he quickly put a plan in place. Jaimon grabbed the garden hose and the rest of the family took what they could and left.
“I saw the fire on the fence there and I saw the neighbor there and said, ‘You don’t leave, let the family go and let’s hose it down,’” he said.
It was a plan they had drawn up after the last big fire. They know how quickly a blaze can spread.
“It just came up here so fast,” said Jaimon’s wife, Betty. “I mean, I came here from work and I saw it was by the high school and thought, it’s not going to come here. But in no time, we saw when we went to the bedroom it was right behind our house.”
The Jaimon family was among those who left their homes after Napa County officials issued an evacuation advisory. They got home around 8 p.m. after the advisory was lifted.
Jaimon Matthew said he was relieved his home was spared and grateful for the effort of firefighters. He would also like to talk with American Canyon city officials about making the backyard fenceline more accessible, since he had to jump over the tall fence, risking injury. He would also like to see an adjustment on the fire break.
“The fire break is there, but not close to our fence,” Matthew said. “They built the place 10 feet away, but don’t do anything [immediately] behind the fence.”
Officials said fire crews would work throughout the night, just in case it flares up again.
Cal Fire officials say air support arrived quickly, effectively keeping the fire contained. In the end, it was a close call and a reminder for folks in fire country during fire season.
“Always be ready,” said Bruce Lang, a fire prevention specialist with Cal Fire. “I always tell people to leave early, as early as you can. That’s the best way to be.”
Parts of Napa and Solano Counties were under a Red Flag Warning for high fire dangerous conditions until 5 p.m. Sunday.
Nearly 100 residents one county over attended a wildfire preparedness meeting at the Green Valley Country Club on Sunday, just before the fire broke out, to learn about fire prevention, defensible space, evacuation plans, and also talk about creating the first Fire Safe Council in Solano County.
“Off to the left just down below that where it’s all discolored, that’s all the burn scar that’s almost two years old,” said CalFire Battalion Chief Aaron Latta. He was talking about the charred hillside above the Green Valley Country Club golf course where the Atlas Fire burned dangerously close two years ago.
“It is very real. Don’t get lulled into a false sense of security that it hasn’t been very active this year. We are just one fire away from something that mirrors 2017,” said Battalion Chief Latta.
It’s a time Victoria Forristall remembers well. She was evacuated from her home for almost a week during the Atlas Fire.
“It was like an apocalypse. It was very very strange. Very scary. I hope we never have to go through it again,” she said.
Neighbors coming together to help each other–that’s the community here, according to Forristall. She says it’s one of the reasons why she says she’ll never leave, despite the constant fire danger.
“It’s heavenly here, so it’s worth it,” she said.
Tuesday marks the two year anniversary of the start of the Wine Country Wildfires.
Cal Fire representatives reiterated during the meeting that it’s not a matter of if, but when another major fire impacts the Bay Area. They’re asking everyone to stay alert and also be prepared.