Arid weather kindles caution in the Bay

With eight grass fires in the last seven days, including a 200-acre blaze in Palo Alto, the potential for a raging wildfire on the Peninsula hovers over the area like a smoky haze.

Two small grass fires in Half Moon Bay and Daly City on Monday morning had officials urging residents to take the necessary precautions guarding against any possible flare-ups which, given the conditions, could easily spread and damage wide swaths of land, as well as homes and businesses.

Fueling the dangerous conditions is the lack of rainfall the Bay Area has received so far this year. According to the University of Nevada-affiliated Western Climate Center, San Francisco International Airport received 11.63 inches of rain from July 1, 2006, until June 30 of this year — 58 percent of normal.

Conditions in the area and around the state are here months ahead of time — what Californians typically experience in August and September are current conditions, fire officials said. “The vegetation that would normally dry out during [the end of summer] — it’s already dry,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Firefighters in Half Moon Bay and Daly City on Monday put out early morning fires and implored residents to protect themselves and others from danger.

Just before 7 a.m. Monday, the Half Moon Bay Fire Department responded to a call near the Pillar Point Radar Station in El Granada. The fire had started in a pine grove, popular with hikers and joggers, above a trailer park, Chief Paul Cole said.

The dead foliage, mostly pine needles, called “duff,” burned several trees and surrounding brush, Cole said. The cause of the fire was undetermined. Firefighters put out the fire in 10 minutes but stayed on the scene for an extra 80 minutes because they discovered some of the trees’ root systems were burning underground, Cole said.

In Daly City roughly an hour later, firefighters responded to a grass fire that burned a small 10-by-10-foot patch of ice plant along Skyline Boulevard. Daly City Fire spokeswoman Angelina Ciucci said the cause of that fire was still under investigation.

No one was injured or threatened by either fire.

On June 23, what officials are now calling a 200-acre wildfire near the Stanford dish threatened buildings along Page Mill and Old Page Mill roads, but none were damaged.

dsmith@examiner.com

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