FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KTVU) - Unusally strong, gusting winds whipped a small grassfire along a bike path into a blaze that threatened an entire neighborhood in Fairfield Friday.
Police and fire crews rushed to evacuate more than 10 houses on the 200 block of Santa Barbara Way after getting a call about the fire about 3:45 p.m.
"I couldn't believe, in a matter of 10 minutes, the smoke was just coming down and it was black and the flames were up there," said Donna Kenney, a neighbor who tried to help several friends get to safety.
"My heart was beating like crazy," said Yoshiko Fields, who woke up her son who was sleeping in their house, "I told him get out it's fire, you know, so cop said get out of here."
Fairfield Police officers and fire crews said there were no injuries. Roads nearby were blocked off to traffic and some residents left their house so quickly they ran out without any shoes.
"We had officers pounding on doors trying to get people out, there were neighbors that were out," said Sergeant Matt Bloesch, a Fairfield Police Department spokesman.
Fairfield police say the fire started small, in a grassy area along a bike trail that runs behind the houses. Police say there were reports that the fire might have started at a homeless encampment nearby. Officers detained some people there, but Sgt. Bloesch it appears those people were trying to help put out the fire and they were not arrested.
"It was hot, just really hot," said Alfred Fairley, an evacuee whose house was partly destroyed.
"We tried to put it out, me and my neighbor, and two seconds later it was all the way at the top of the tree and fire was coming down burning us so we had to get out of there," Fairley said.
"From just a little bit of flames on the tree to completely black smoke everywhere. You couldn't see anything. Ashes flying in our face, it was bad," said Denise Conatser, a neighbor
Also bad for fire crews, the flames spread to a live power line behind the homes bringing that line down, right as firefighters were trying to battle the fire.
Another problem was that the winds, often gusty in Fairfield, were made worse by an approaching storm.
"This was even unique for Fairfield in that the storm front coming through bringing rain tomorrow just had some swirling, gusting winds that were picking up embers and really making it difficult," said Fairfield Fire Battalion Chief Matt Luckenbach.
Two houses and a detached shed outside a third house were destroyed.
A Salvation Army spokesman Captain Jonathan Harvey says they provided nearly 100 meals to residents and first responders.
Investigators have not determined a cause of the fire.