SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Residents are trying to pick up the pieces a day after a grass fire tore through a Northern California neighborhood, destroying five homes and damaging 10 others.
About 50 people fled after an initially small roadside fire spread in the city of Fairfield, about 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, late Tuesday afternoon, Fairfield Fire Battalion Chief Matt Luckenbach said.
No injuries were reported, Luckenbach said, as the wind-driven fire that started in some grass near Interstate 80 jumped a creek, skipped a freeway sound wall and raced through the neighborhood, spreading through vegetation and treetops.
The seven-alarm blaze eventually grew to 40 acres as nearly 200 firefighters from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection and three counties took more than two hours to get the flames under control, Luckenbach said Wednesday.
Martin Lalor, who lived in one of the five gutted homes with his mother, girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter, told KGO-TV on Wednesday that he and his daughter were home alone when fire overran their street.
"I turned around and saw that my palm tree was on fire. At that time, I went inside the house and looked out my back window there was just smoke," Lalor said. "I couldn't see any flames, I just saw smoke. I grabbed my daughter and got her out of here."
Lalor said he lost everything in his home.
"I picked up some of my guitars and they were just burned to a crisp — strings and just metal pieces," Lalor said.
Among the five families who lost their home, the American Red Cross assisted one family, while the other four households were able to stay with loved ones, Luckenbach said.
Lalor stayed with relatives Tuesday night. He was wearing his brother's clothes Wednesday and said he has several tasks in order to get his life back together, including getting a new driver's license and Social Security card.
"(I'm) just trying to adjust and take it day by day to figure this out and try to get back on our feet," Lalor said.
Besides the destroyed homes that authorities have declared uninhabitable, Luckenbach said 10 others sustained some damage, including holes in roofs, broken doors and shattered windows.
"There was the potential for a lot more," said Luckenbach, who said crews were putting out hotspots Wednesday. He urged homeowners to clear leaves and pine needles from rain gutters.
Fairfield Communications Manager Gale Spears said a city disaster recovery team assessed the 10 damaged homes Wednesday and will do so again Thursday before allowing residents to re-enter the area.
"We want to help those recover whatever they can, but, at this point, we want to make sure it's safe," Spears said.
No damage estimates have been determined. The cause of the fire remains under investigation.