Firefighters Practice for Summer on a Hillside in Antioch

If you happen to spot smoke rising west of Highway 4 in eastern Contra Costa County this week, don't call 911. It's just the Contra Costa County Fire District getting ready for a long hot summer.

The crews are practicing all week. It's not easy to maneuver heavy equipment on steep slopes.

The waist-high grass that catches fire quickly makes for a good approximation of what fire crews will have to deal with throughout the summer: flare-ups beside the freeway, bonfires that turn into blazes and grass fires that grow out of control.

The land they practice on belongs to a developer. It tends to burn anyway -- people light bonfires that get out of control or ride ATVs or dump trash. 

ConFire has been holding training exercises there for the past few years, in an arrangement that was mutually beneficial for firefighters and the developer, Davidon Homes, said ConFire Battalion Chief Tom Oakley.

But the property is going to redeveloped soon and is scheduled for grading next week.

Thursday's conditions are perfect for a controlled burn that helps firefighters rehearse for less ideal conditions -- when winds blow hard, when heavy equipment is a long distance away and when it's hot.

"As you can see from the brown hills, anything can start on fire," Oakley said.

Contact Us