Big blaze blows through Brisbane

The massive grass fire that scorched the top of San Bruno Mountain sent smoke throughout the Peninsula and evacuated 200 residents was mostly contained Monday afternoon in what fire officials are calling the largest blaze in the area in a decade.

More than 100 exhausted firefighters battled the 300-acre blaze that started as a two-alarm fire Sunday evening but grew to five alarms within a matter of minutes, authorities said.

The fire began near San Francisco Avenue at Buckeye Canyon in Brisbane and ate quickly through the dry brush on the mountain, CalFire Battalion Chief Scott Jalbert said.

“We haven’t had a fire this big for about 10 years,” he said.

Jalbert said the fire was 95 percent contained as of Monday afternoon. Monday’s fog and cool weather aided the battle against the fire, officials said.

“Thank God for the fog — the moisture helped us out a lot,” North County Fire Authority Deputy Chief Richard Johnson said.

The flames had climbed over the crest of San Bruno Mountain late Sunday night and onto the side overlooking South San Francisco, but never endangered any homes there.

The 200 residents who had been evacuated late Sunday were allowed to return to their homes around midnight. The fire neither damaged any homes in Brisbane nor caused any injuries.

Ironically, the fire came only a week before the city had scheduled a citywide evacuation fire drill, authorities said.

Resident Ernie Kerling said she and the other evacuated residents were lucky that wind did not play a factor in the fire.

She said most of the evacuated residents preferred to stay away from the mountain during the day because of the smell of smoke, which lingered on city streets Monday and could be smelled around the Bay Area.

Keith and Sam Moreau, local filmmakers of a documentary about the mountain, left their home near the fire’s containment line to film the smoky mountain.

“Fire is a blessing in a lot of ways because it restores a lot of the native grasslands,” Keith said.

Although no one was injured and no property was damaged in the fire, some residents worried about the wildlife, such as endangered butterflies and plants that call San Bruno Mountain home.

“We’re said to see Buckeye and Owl hills burned — you wonder how many animals it destroyed,” said Dana Dillworth, whooften volunteers on the mountain. “We’ve pulled weeds for years so this kind of undoes everything.”

The cause of the fire is still under investigation. Air quality officials issued a smoke advisory Monday for the Bay Area due to the smoky air in the region.

svasilyuk@sfexaminer.com

By the numbers

A massive grass fire scorched Brisbane Mountain on Sunday.

5 alarms

5 hours to make containment line

30 engines responded

100 firefighters responded

200 residents displaced

300 acres burned

0 homes damaged

Source: North County Fire Authority

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