A failed PG&E voltage regulator caused a small grass and brush fire near Howarth Park on Wednesday evening, temporarily knocking out power to thousands of customers near Summerfield Road and Sonoma Avenue, officials said.
Santa Rosa, Rincon Valley and Bennett Valley firefighters responded at 10:42 p.m. after receiving reports of a vegetation fire in Howarth Park just north of Medica Road.
When they arrived, firefighters saw a power pole on fire, along with a 50- by 75-square-foot patch of grass and brush. The fire was out within 15 minutes, officials said.
The power outage, which was first registered by PG&E at 10:40 p.m., affected about 4,000 customers in the area. Electricity was restored by midnight, PG&E spokeswoman Deanna Contreras said.
Fire officials said the city-owned property that caught fire recently had its seasonal grasses cut, which significantly slowed the spread of the flames and allowed firefighters to quickly put them out. No evacuations or structures were threatened.
Some residents near the fire said Thursday they were concerned they did not receive a Nixle alert about the blaze.
Sylvia West, who lives in Annadel Heights, not far from the fire, said she and other neighbors got their information about the fire through the Nextdoor app.
“People smell smoke, and they start getting excited and worried,” West said.
“I’m not far from there, and people even closer were posting that they did not get a Nixle alert.”
Santa Rosa Police Sgt. Jeneane Kucker said a Nixle “community message” — rather than an alert — was issued via email at 11:07 p.m. Kucker said officials opted to put out a community message rather than an alert because they did not want to alarm local residents at such a late hour when the fire posed no threat to the public.
“We don’t want to create panic unnecessarily when it’s a controlled situation,” Kucker said.
“There’s a fine balance between public information and creating unnecessary urgency that’s not there.”
You can reach Staff Writer Martin Espinoza at 707-521-5213.