SOUTH SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — A four-alarm vegetation fire that burned near homes along the base on San Bruno Mountain Friday afternoon was contained after a tense battle, according to authorities.

The four-alarm vegetation fire, which prompted evacuations earlier, was contained as of around 2:18 p.m., the South San Francisco Fire Department confirmed.

On Friday night, police revealed that a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old have confessed to starting the blaze.

Police say a neighbor spotted the teens leaving the area and, when officers found them, they admitted to what they’d done.

Earlier flames and smoke were seen sweeping across the historic “South San Francisco The Industrial City” sign of concrete letters familiar to area residents.

The fire burned near homes on what is known as Sign Hill. The South San Francisco Fire Department ordered evacuations for Carnelian Road, Sonja Road, Mountain Road, Ridgeview Court, and Viewmont Terrance.

Shortly after 3:30 p.m., South San Francisco Fire said residents who live on Larch Ave between Kearny Street and Lincoln Street were cleared to return to their homes.

About two hours later, all evacuation orders for the fire were lifted by officials. Residents were asked to use caution as fire crews were still working in the area.

A temporary evacuation center was set up at MSB Social Hall at 33 Arroyo Drive during the incident, the fire department said.

A viewer from Daly City sent a photo of ash that had fallen on their car from the fire in South San Francisco.

San Bruno Mountain fire ash (credit: Facebook/Leo Gomez Malbas)

With 20 engines responding, the fire was kept to about 10 acres and some minor exterior damage to a handful of homes. No properties burned down.

Aerial fire units helped during the height of the fire, dropping flame retardant around homes on the hillside.

Nearby resident Meghan Fitzgerald was warming her lunch when the squeal of sirens made her look up. 

“I just assumed, ‘That’s not good,’ And I went out the backdoor to look out the window and I saw the smoke coming up. It looked like it started on the right side. Saw a bunch of smoke, and then I saw the flames start ripping,” said Fitzgerald.

Four-time South San Francisco Mayor Rich Garbarino told KPIX 5 he always is worried about the fire potential of that hill 

“That hill gets dry pretty quickly; all that vegetation. All those wonderful trees, that eucalyptus and pine, beautiful looking, but their content is a lot of oil and a lot of burning material. We always worry about that,” said Garbarino.

Stephen Brown, who works as a carpenter, was fifteen minutes away when he got a call from his housemates that they were evacuating. 

“Probably the last thing that you’d expect today. You hear of things like natural disasters and you think this is the last place it’s going to happen,” said Brown.

The South San Francisco Hillside Sign is familiar to many travelers along U.S. Highway 101 near San Francisco International Airport. It was created in the 1920s and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Andria Borba contributed to this story.

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