Oakland firefighters battle 3 major fires in 10 days off I-580

Another vegetation fire rapidly spread up an Oakland hillside off Interstate 580, threatening homes Monday night. It marks the third massive brush fire in 10 days.

The Oakland Fire Department said a pickup truck engulfed in flames quickly spread to vegetation not far from the Edwards Avenue exit about 7:40 p.m. Monday.

Nearly 70 firefighters contained the fire within 90 minutes, and managed to keep flames within 45 yards from nearby homes.

"It was crazy," neighbor Aniya Shield said. "I looked out the window and I saw flames. There was smoke all in the air. It was ridiculous.""

No one was hurt, including the occupants of the truck who were able to escape. While some neighbors left their homes, no damage occurred to any structures.

"If it were not for the skills and the professionalism, and the competence of our Oakland firefighters, that incident would have been a lot worse than it was," Chief Reginald Freeman said. "The loss of homes would have been imminent."

This is the third major fire along a three-mile stretch of the MacArthur Freeway this month.

One week ago, on September 20, investigators said an arsonist, possibly using flares, sparked three separate brush fires between 35th and Coolidge Avenues. A suspect is still sought.

"Between the Oakland Fire Department and the Oakland Police Department, I’m very hopeful and confident that this particular suspect will be apprehended and brought to justice," Freeman said.

With so much dry brush alongside the highways, vegetation management crews have their work cut out for them. 

Freeman said 25,000 parcels are cleared annually by city crews along with 77 miles of roadway in hopes of proactively protecting against wildfires.

But Caltrans is responsible along the interstates.

The agency said it started clearing burned out brush and removing trees Tuesday near Edwards Avenue. Also, a large cleanup began this week just below Quigley Street off 35th Avenue.

Back on September 16, dry vegetation was fuel for the 4-alarm fire that spread so rapidly it destroyed or damaged several homes and cars.

"It’s terrible," said Margie Wilson who lost her car in the fire and barely escaped her home. "They say it’s the homeless people. My neighbors say they hear them back there at night…music and BBQ grills and partying all sorts of things."

SEE ALSO: Arson the cause behind grassfires off I-580 in Oakland, fire department says

That was the case two years ago, when unhoused residents were blamed for another fire near the freeway and Quigley Street.

This time around, Freeman said it’s too soon to definitively say what may have caused the large fire.

"As of right now, we do not have a determination if they [unhoused] factually contributed to that fire," he said.

Many neighbors mentioned as they wait for an official fire report, they wonder what may happen next.

"That really worries me," Wilson said. "This is devastating."

Caltrans said it is working to maintain an eight to 10 foot fire break along that stretch of highway to prevent future fires.

Brooks Jarosz is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email him at brooks.jarosz@fox.com and follow him on Facebook and Twitter @BrooksKTVU