Bay City News

Crews Stop Spread of Moraga Brush Fire; Evacuations Lifted

Evacuations have been lifted in the area of the Merrill Fire in Moraga, where about 140 structures had been threatened by the fire early Thursday morning, according to Contra Costa County officials.

But the incident in the upscale community where power had been cut hours earlier had neighbors asking the same question — how did the fire start?

The community remains without power as of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, a precautionary measure taken by PG&E to reduce fire danger during a red flag fire warning. So, when a brush fire in the Sanders Ranch area broke out anyway residents were confused. 

"We were awakened probably about 2 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. People knocking on doors, pounding on doors, to get the word out," said Mike Bernhardt, a Sanders Ranch resident. "Our next door neighbor was waking us up." 

Fire officials said that the power shutoff made it safer for firefighters working to put out the blaze.

"Knowing that the power is off eliminates one of the potential threats and risks to the firefighters that are working the fires, in terms of working in and around energized power lines," said Capt. Michael Lacy of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District.

The fire was reported at 12:54 a.m. in the area of Merrill Circle and Sanders Ranch Road.

Moraga police issued evacuation orders for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood and an evacuation center was set up at St. Monica's Church at 1001 Camino Pablo.

According to Cal Fire, the blaze was 80 percent contained as of shortly after 7 a.m.

Contra Costa County officials wrote on Twitter around the same time that the "all-clear" has been issued for the Sanders Ranch neighborhood.

The cause of the fire has not been determined.

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