Warm temperatures, higher humidity and strong afternoon winds increase the likelihood of grass fires now through mid-September, Tracy Fire Department Division Chief Andrew Kellogg said.
The fire along West Schulte Road, whipped by winds in the 20-35 mph range, spread from Mountain House Parkway to the California Aqueduct — a span of about half a mile — in about seven minutes, according to Kellogg.
“The afternoon winds are a huge factor we have to consider in any wild-land (grass) fire,” Kellogg said.
The fire charred dry grasses alongside the road and ignited trees, shrubs and debris in a drainage ditch, including discarded tires.
Flames threatened several trucks and cars parked on the shoulder of the road, but firefighters pushed back the fire before it reached the vehicles.
The fire department sent five engines to fight the fire, which took about two and a half hours to fully extinguish.
Kellogg said residents should take extra precautions to keep their property safe from grass fires.
Anyone whose home is surrounded by dry annual grasses should clear a 100-foot area around the home down to bare soil, Kellogg said.
Yard work using a mower or trimmer should be done only in the morning, when temperatures are lower and humidity is higher, he said. At such times, a spark from a blade or muffler is less likely to start a fire.
Kellogg also urged residents to report any fire to 911 as quickly as possible and not try to fight grass fires themselves.
“It doesn’t matter the size of the fire, even if it is just smoldering, because of how fast the fire can spread,” Kellogg said. “The longer it takes us to get there, the more the fire spreads — it moves so fast.”
He also urged all residents to keep weeds and debris away from their homes, even in city neighborhoods.
Concerns about neighborhood weeds, including the yards of abandoned and foreclosed houses, can be directed to the fire department’s weed abatement program at 831-6700.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.