East Bay marshland fire flooded in unique approach to stop smoke from polluting air

A marshland fire burning for weeks in Pittsburg is being flooded with water from the Bay by firefighters in order to put it out. Contra Costa Fire Protection District began this unique approach after smoke has continued to pollute the air. 

Seven pumps are now being used to flood the fire by Contra Costa County Fire Protection District with help from nearby agencies. The effort started shortly before noon on Friday. 

The stubborn fire has been burning since May 28. 

"There's heat that's deep-seated underground. We're going to have to flood it to get good penetration," said deputy Fire Chief Aaron McAlister.

The chief said the heat is several feet deep in multiple spots. "That's what makes it difficult for us to put people or equipment into the field," said McAlister. 

The fire department came up with the flooding plan, but needed approval from numerous regulatory agencies before it was able to move ahead. 

McAlister said no homes are threatened by the fire, but says the smoke is a public health emergency.  

"I hope it works out. It's getting terrible," Mark Wright, who owns a Wrightcuts barbershop, said. 

He said many customers at his downtown Pittsburg barbershop have complained about the smoke.  

"Some people come in with their mask on," said Wright.

He's even closed up shop hours early one day due to the heavy smoke.

"My breathing is tough for me. That's why I keep my doors shut at the barbershop so that helps out," he said. 

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The Bay Area Air Qualiity Management District is advising people to close their windows and doors and stay indoors if smoke is present. The advisory is extended through Monday. 

"I already have respiratory issues so it makes it hard to breath. Right now, I have my mask off and it's hard. You can smell the smoke," said Will Salone, a customer at the barbershop. 

"We need to move tens of millions of gallons of water to be effective. The public should expect the water to start to creep in to where it needs to be. The smoke will start to decrease," McAlister said. 

The deputy fire chief said the smoke should begin to clear slowly starting Saturday. He estimates it will take a week to put out the fire.