A bird that hit a power line in turn ignited a 12-acre wildland fire near New Melones Reservoir yesterday afternoon.
Flames lick oak trees near firefighters in the fast moving fire. Amy Alonzo/Copyright 2005, The Union Democrat
The flaming bird fell to the ground and sparked the grass fire near Glory Hole Marina on the Calaveras County side of the reservoir, said Mike Noonan, assistant county fire warden for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and Tuolumne County Fire Department.
Yesterday’s fire was one of the first significant wild fires of the season. While the area received plenty of rain and snow earlier this year, that precipitation has resulted in a bumper crop of grass much of which is now dry and highly flammable.
Debra Keenan, CDF spokeswoman, said afternoon winds coming off New Melones and Don Pedro reservoirs can fan flames quickly, so getting fires contained is imperative.
Seven engines from CDF, two helicopters from Columbia Air Attack base, two CDF air tankers, one bulldozer and crews from Angels Fire Protection District and Murphys Fire Protection District, Vallecito and Baseline Conservation Camp responded.
At one point, the flames approached the Angels Camp water and sewer treatment plant, but never threatened the buildings, said Carol Wolf, plant manager.
“I had operators up there (near the sewage plant spray fields), Wolf said “I told them if the fire got close to start turning on the sprayers to get water on the fields.”
The road off Highway 49 to Glory Hole Marina was temporarily closed to boaters and other traffic while the crews worked to surround the fire.
No one was injured, no structures were damaged and the cost of the fire was estimated at $2,400.