Grass fire scorches 160 acres near Petaluma

  • Firefighters scramble to cut a scratch line to stop a spot fire during a large fire off Lakeville Highway near the Pegasus Ranch south of Petaluma, Friday July 26, 2013. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2013

Fire charred about 160 acres of pasture, eucalyptus trees and vineyards southeast of Petaluma Friday afternoon, driven by gusty wind pushing flames through the rolling hills.

Two helicopters and a half-dozen air tankers dropped water and pink flame retardant on flames on cow pasture behind Al Marcucci's barns on Niemela Road east of Lakeville Highway. Marcucci is a longtime board member of the Lakeville Volunteer Fire Department.

His 230 acres has been in his family for more than 100 years, he said.

Brush Fire off Lakeville Highway in Petaluma


"We never had a fire — except for the one on the stove," he said as fire crews doused flames and bulldozers carved out lines to stop the fire's advance.

"I'm very impressed by Cal Fire, Shell Vista, Wilmar," he said, naming some of the fire agencies that responded to the fire, which was reported around 2 p.m. and fully contained nearly four hours later.

No buildings were destroyed, CalFire Battalion Chief Jeremy Lawson said. Marcucci hoped a herd of 25 cows were able to escape.

Afternoon winds — common through the Lakeville corridor — were gustier than usual, Marcucci said.

"The winds howl out here at times," Lawson said. "The winds presented us with some problems with some spot fires that would just run."

The oil-heavy eucalyptus trees, too, presented challenges, he said.

Two crews of 17 firefighters each scrambled along the hills trying to cut off the fire's progress. The fire spread southeast, pushed by the wind, away from farm buildings, hay stacks and homes.

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