Running through whipping wind and clouds of ashy smoke, Ana Contreras rushed into the home of her former boss on San Bruno Mountain to find a swarming grass fire only yards away from the two-story home.
Luckily, she was also met by a team of North County firefighters, who were battling more than the blaze creeping near 800 Harold Road: A wide swath of flames was charring nearly 7 acres of grassland on the south-easternside of the mountain.
“It came really close,” Contreras said.
What started at noon Tuesday as a one-alarm fire off Bayshore Boulevard quickly grew into a three-alarm blaze due to strong 45-mph winds and dry conditions on the 1,300-foot-tall mountain.
Tuesday’s blaze was the third fire in Brisbane in three days. It exhausted more than 60 firefighters, two planes with fire retardant and a helicopter, said Clyde Preston of the North County Fire Authority.
The cause of all three fires is under investigation. Battalion Chief Tony Maffei would not say if arson was suspected, but he said there was no connection between the first two fires.
Resident Mario Trigonis, who lives on Humboldt Road several hundred yards away from all three fires, has his doubts.
“We’re getting very worried because there have been three fires recently,” said Trigonis, who said he has lived in Brisbane for 17 years. “I hope it’s not an arsonist.”
Councilmember Cy Bologoff said that fires happen in Brisbane, and the three consecutive blazes may have been a simple coincidence.
“I don’t think there is an arsonist running around,” he said. “Who really knows? I just have a feeling it’s one of those accidental things. When you have a mountain and it borders right on the freeway, anything can set it off — like somebody flicking a cigarette from the car.”
The fire, which burned grass and brush in San Bruno Mountain State and County Park, just north of South San Francisco, and on adjacent land nearby, may have posed a danger to the wildlife that live in the area, Preston said.
The blaze billowed smoke over U.S. Highway 101 and shut down several offramps from South San Francisco to Brisbane for hours, California Highway Patrol Officer Van Eckhardt said. He said drivers slowing down to watch the fire caused heavy traffic around 1 p.m., which subsided as the firefighters, covered in smoke and fire retardant, took control of the flames.