Scattered small fires break out in Northern California despite PG&E power outage

A brush fire burns in Moraga, Calif., on Thursday
Firefighters work to contain a brush fire in Moraga, Calif., in Contra Costa County on Thursday.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

As hundreds of thousands of Northern California residents faced their second day without electricity after Pacific Gas & Electric Co. turned off the power to avoid fire danger, several brush fires ignited throughout the region.

On Thursday afternoon, a fire on San Bruno Mountain in Brisbane south of San Francisco spread rapidly to about 11 acres and consumed vegetation below several power transmission towers, according to officials and video footage of the scene. Officials went door to door in the area to inform residents of a voluntary evacuation order, according to the Brisbane Police Department.

Millions of Californians could spend days without power as the state’s largest utility continues shutting off electricity in a desperate attempt to avoid wildfires sparked by windblown power lines.


California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection officials said the fire was 60% contained as of 2:05 p.m.

PG&E spokesman Paul Doherty said that the area is in a low fire-danger zone and that power had not been turned off.

“Right now, our focus is supporting the fire-suppression efforts and then will be … assessing any impacts to our infrastructure once we get the all-clear,” he said. “We also remain focused on continuing to inspect our electric equipment and safely restore service for our customers.”

Earlier in the day, a 4-acre fire was reported in a grassy area near Levee Road in West Sacramento.

Paul Hosley, a spokesman for the West Sacramento Fire Department, said that by noon, the fire — which had begun about an hour earlier — was under control and that fire officials were mopping up the area. No evacuations were ordered, and no structures were threatened.

About 75 miles to the south, Moraga-Orinda Fire District crews continued working to fully contain a wildfire that ignited in the predawn hours near St. Mary’s College.

Evacuations were ordered in Moraga’s Sanders Ranch neighborhood, but the college did not appear to be threatened, officials said.

Cal Fire said the flames consumed about 60 acres in a little over two hours. The blaze, called the Merrill fire, was 80% contained as of 7 a.m.

Residents of the Contra Costa County community were among some 738,000 PG&E customers who had their power shut off. Brisbane and West Sacramento, however, are not in PG&E’s power outage zones.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.