3-alarm brush fire near Sunol gives residents a scare

SUNOL, Calif. (KTVU) --  A fire that started on Interstate 680 Northbound Monday morning between Pleasanton and Sunol caused quite a scare for area residents.

At around 10 a.m., fire crews responded to reports of two fires along Interstate 680 about a mile apart. Two northbound lanes of the freeway were shut down as crews battled the fire.

Flames blackened dry vegetation, consuming a total of 40 acres. The fire burned almost to the front steps of a vacant multi-million dollar home and threatened dozens of others.

"I saw the smoke and then when I went to there, then they're yelling at me to evacuate. They said 'You've got to evacuate right now!'" said area resident Eileen Terpstra.

She told KTVU she took her computer and her phone. The homeowner said during her 22 years living here, she has never been told to evacuate.

"I was nervous. Mainly I was just nervous," said Terpstra.

While her home on Happy Valley Road was spared, the fire up on the hill burned the roof of a barn

"Most of the time when we lose houses, it's not from direct flame contact. It's from hot embers underneath the tiles," said Alameda County Fire Battalion Chief John Walsh.

The aggressive aerial assault and ground attack by nearly 100 firefighters helped to get the 3-alarm fire under control in about an hour.

Walsh said low visibility and heat made the firefight difficult, but fortunately high humidity helped slow the flames. Walsh also noted the fire may have been started by a vehicle travelling on I-680.

"A cigarette, any spark, a chain dragging or a brake issue. It's being investigated right now," said Walsh.

The battalion chief said vehicles pulling a trailer sometimes have their chains dragging on the road, creating a fire hazard. He said this fire is a wake-up call and a reminder to keep defensible space around your home.

One grateful homeowner told KTVU she was relieved.

"Everybody's ok. We're all ok. Neighborhood's ok," said Terpstra.

As of 9:30 p.m. Monday night, crews were still on scene, keeping a lookout for hot spots.