Wind-whipped fire near Livermore grows to 2,500 acres

- ALAMEDA COUNTY, Calif. (KTVU and wires) -- A grass fire  burning east of Livermore, fueled by steady winds and an abundance of dry grass and brush, grew to 2,500 acres by Wednesday evening, according to Cal Fire officials.

Reports of the fire came in at 2:45 p.m. off Tesla Road near Corral Hollow Road between Tracy and Livermore, Cal Fire officials said.

By shortly before 6:30 p.m., it had already grown to 1,000 acres. That was around when the Carnegie Motocross Park at 18600 Corral Hollow Road was evacuated, according to Cal Fire.

A tweet from Cal Fire shortly after 8:30 p.m. placed the size of the fire at 2,500 acres. At that time, the fire was about 5 percent contained, Cal Fire authorities said.

Along Tesla Road and Corral Hollow Road, fire vehicles navigated the winding curves with lights flashing.

Blackened hillsides to the south were covered with smoking, still burning hot spots, while the hills north of the roads were full of dry, brown, ready-to-burn fuel.

"[It] just took off, just took off. Rapid spotting up ahead," said Alameda County Fire Battalion Chief Stephanie Radecke. "Unprecedented conditions that we're dealing with this year."

This year, the fourth consecutive year of drought for California, left vegetation so dry there was little to stop the fire from eating through everything in its path.

From the air, a SkyFox2 camera captured some structures lost to fire, but Cal Fire officials said they were still working to get more details on damages.

The fire area is sparsely populated with people, but had plenty of horses. As the flames came close, a desperate rodeo roundup had ranchers packing up and driving a caravan of horses in trailers out to safety.

One home along Corral Hollow Road was surrounded by flames, but fire crews rushed in to put out the fires that flared up just feet from the front yard.

Other main concerns were the Carnegie Recreation Park, a popular spot for dirt bike riders. The park was evacuated before the fire burned through large swaths of the area.

Also a concern was a part of the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory called Site 300, which escaped harm as the winds pushed fire just south of its border.

Helicopters worked nonstop refueling and returning to the aerial attacks. Fire tankers loaded up with water, so precious amidst this four year drought

"This is really historic in terms of the drought and it's bad this year. And of course we're still really early in the fire season. We're seeing types of fire behavior and things that we would normally not see until later in the year in September and October," Battalion Chief Radecke said.

The fire was burning on both sides of Tesla Road, Cal Fire fire prevention specialist Pam Temmermand said.

Temmermand says 23 engines, three bulldozers, four air tankers and two helicopters from Alameda County fire district were fighting the blaze.

More than 200 firefighters had been called in to help. many working through the night.

"If the wind dies down, maybe things will slow down a bit," Temmermand said. "But I know they're getting gusts of 12 to 13 (mph), so we'll see."
 

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