“Suspicious” Brush Fires Burn in Oakland Hills

Investigators are calling a series of brush fires that broke out in the Oakland Hills “suspicious.”

The first two broke out shortly before 2 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon near Park Boulevard and Estates Drive. Then three other smaller fires were reported within the next two hours, according to Oakland police.

Fire officials said they’re calling the fires suspicious because of their proximity to one another. They said there wasn’t much wind Tuesday, so it’s not likely these smaller fires were caused by blowing embers.

The cause of all the fires appears to be an open flame, Oakland fire Battalion Chief Lisa Baker said.

The largest of the fires consumed about 3.5 acres, police said: Estates Drive and Park Blvd, 2 acres; Park Boulevard and Monterey Boulevard, 3.5 acres; Dimond Canyon Park general area, 10x10 feet; Dimond Canyon Park general area, 10x10 feet; Dimond Canyon Park general area, 5x8 feet.

All of the fires were under control by 3:40 p.m., according to the fire battalion chief.

Hours after the first fire started, crews were still monitoring the canyon and Oakland police were also out patrolling, looking for anyone or anything suspicious.

People who live nearby on Leimert Avenue watched as smoke billowed up from Sausal Creek Canyon and toward their homes.

Oakland resident Amy Bauman said she was ready to evacuate.

“I packed some stuff up, some financial files and my credit card, and said ‘we’re outta here,’” Bauman said.

Two fires burning about a half-mile apart had fire crews busy, followed by several smaller brush fires nearby.

Alex Igbineweka, a security guard who patrols the neighborhood, said he thinks it must be a case of arson.

“That kind of fire -- I don’t know where it come from in the bush … Somebody must have set the fire,” Igbineweka said.

It took a helicopter from the Department of Forestry about 40 minutes to arrive and drop water on the flames. Fire officials said that’s what knocked down the largest of the fires.

Many still remember the firestorm in the Oakland Hills in 1991. Twenty-five lives were lost, dozens were injured, and nearly 4,000 homes and apartments were destroyed.

Residents said Tuesday they’re doing their part to prevent another disaster.

“We weren’t here for the first big fire, and we’re just trying to do what we’re supposed to so we’re not here for another big one,” Bauman said.

There are no reports of injuries or evacuations.

The biggest concern firefighters had was that the blaze would engulf high-voltage power lines because the fire from the two large fires reached about 30 feet high, but that didn't happen, according to Baker.

She said the fires are under investigation and citizens who see any suspicious activity should call fire officials.

Fire crews said they planned to remain in the area well into the night to make sure there are no flare-ups.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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