News Column

More Fires in California

January 17, 2014

Jeremiah Dobruck and Bradley Zint, Daily Pilot

Jan. 17--Firefighters controlled a fire that broke out in Talbert Regional Park in Costa Mesa on Thursday after it burned nearly three acres.

Authorities had almost fully contained the blaze by 4 p.m., nearly five hours after it sparked, according to Capt. Shane Sherwood of the Orange County Fire Authority.

"Hand crews were still working, mopping up some hot spots," he said.

On Wednesday, three suspicious brush fires broke out in Talbert and up the bluff in Fairview Park. Those fires, which burned about three-tenths of an acre combined, are being investigated as possible acts of arson, according to the Costa Mesa Fire Department.

Fire authority officials couldn't say whether Thursday's fire was deliberately set, or if there's a connection to the previous day's blazes.

"Anytime we get multiple starts in the same area, we're concerned," said Ric Schultz, an OCFA battalion chief. "However, I can say it's highly suspicious that we've had [so many] fires in the same area."

No injuries to parkgoers or firefighters were reported in any of the fires Wednesday or Thursday. None of Talbert's or Fairview's permanent structures, including its restrooms and park benches, was damaged.

The cause of Thursday's fire is under investigation. It occurred within the 180-acre park's upper section, north of Victoria Street and adjacent to the city's Fairview Park.

Officials were first alerted to the fire around 11:30 a.m.

For a few hours, Costa Mesa police closed Fairview's parking lot off Placentia Avenue while six engines, a water tender and an OCFA helicopter fought the blaze.

In addition to county and city firefighters, personnel from Huntington Beach and Newport Beach also assisted in the effort. About 40 firefighters responded to the fire.

The OCFA helicopter dropped water taken from the Fairview Park ponds, 360 gallons for each of the 23 drops, Schultz said.

Schultz, who estimated winds at about 12 knots, called the blaze a "wind-driven fire."

Despite the blowing Santa Ana winds, conditions could have been worse, he said. Fairview's bluffs to the east of the fire and the Santa Ana River to the west create some natural containment, and much of the vegetation in the area was still green, he explained.

Fred Seguin, deputy fire chief for Costa Mesa, said the northern section of Talbert probably hasn't seen a blaze in 10 years. Most fires happen within Talbert's southern section, south of Victoria Street, he said.

The southern section has thick brush and a small lake and is known to contain makeshift dwellings created by homeless people.

Because the area is close to the ocean, at night the plants retain moisture.

"If this were in Trabuco Canyon or Anaheim Hills, this would have been a much, much bigger fire, even with the same winds behind it," Schultz said. "But it's still very dry. It's not like it isn't dangerous."

Meanwhile, firefighters from across Southern California were also battling the Colby fire, which broke out Thursday morning above Glendora, northeast of Los Angeles. It has burned at least 1,700 acres, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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(c)2014 Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)

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Original headline: Crews battle fourth brush fire in two days



Source: (c)2014 Daily Pilot (Costa Mesa, Calif.)


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