USA: Marsh fire coughs up noxious fumes

Marsh fire coughs up noxious fumes

Source: DailyRepublic, 15 September 2004

By Barry Eberling

FAIRFIELD — A fire in Suisun Marsh sent smoke drifting into Fairfield and Suisun City on Tuesday morning, creating a smell strong enough to seep into buildings.

By about 9:30 a.m., the winds shifted and the smoke began to clear out of the cities.

What began as a controlled burn at the Tree Slough duck club a few days ago got out of control, Suisun Fire Protection District Chief Terry Blanc said. The fire got into peat soil, he said.

Peat is layers of old salt grass and other combustible vegetable matter. Peat fires can be tricky, burning for days underground when they appear to be out, then flaring up again.

“It burns and burns and burns,” Blanc said.

Floodgates at the club are now open to allow water in, Blanc said. But the tides must be high enough, he said.

“We just have to let it burn out,” Blanc said Tuesday. “If everything goes right, 90 percent of it should be gone by (today).”

Prior to Tuesday, the winds had blown the smoke toward Denverton, Blanc said. That’s a rural area east of Suisun City.

But a shift in the wind meant many local residents awoke Tuesday to poor air quality.

Dan Davis smelled the smoke when he went to Old Town, Suisun City at 6:30 a.m. to fish in the Suisun Channel.

“It was bad enough to make me choke, with my asthma,” he said.

The Suisun Fire Protection District used three to four trucks and 10 firefighters to put a containment line around the fire, Blanc said. The fire burned about 100 acres, he said.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District is investigating the incident, said Luna Salaver of the agency.

It has the power to fine the duck club for creating a public nuisance, she said. But the district reported no complaints during the period the smoke was at its thickest in Fairfield and Suisun City.

Smoke from a controlled burn that got out of control in the Suisun Marsh filled the air around Fairfield and Suisun City Tuesday morning. (Photo by Gary Goldsmith)

Reach Barry Eberling at 425-4646 Ext. 232 or at


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