Pittsburg fire at lumber yard began at homeless encampment, one firefighter injured

A fire ripped through a yard of plastic piping in Pittsburg on Sunday afternoon, sending a huge plume of black smoke into the air. The fire was reported at 2:38 p.m. at Elite Roofing Supply on Piedmont Way, but a company official said it was mostly piping belonging to a company called Baker Tanks that burned.

One firefighter was sent to the hospital with smoke inhalation and is expected to recover.

Investigators said that the fire started in a homeless encampment along Highway 4, just north of the yard. The massive plume of smoke slowed traffic on Highway 4.

John Passur of Antioch was one of many people who came to see the fire up close.

"The best way to describe it, it was like a volcano, how thick the black smoke is coming up," he said.

70 to 80 firefighters were able to keep the flames from spreading to the adjacent business while Highway 4 acted as a barrier from keeping the fire from spreading north.

"There was concern about the fire spreading to the west," Steve Hill of Contra Costa Fire said. "We had our bulldozer out here cutting fire breaks to make sure we didn't have fire coming this [west] direction." Hill said that homeless encampments are often where grass fires start this time of year.

"This highlights a particular problem with the high fire danger and will through the fall. A lot of our fires end up starting in and around homeless encampments," Hill said.