A fire in the hills above Rio Nido and Forestville in western Sonoma County prompted a large response Friday night from firefighters, as flames spread into surrounding brush amid warm, dry conditions that already had the region on alert.
The Sweet fire was reported around 8:47 p.m. off Sweetwater Springs Road near Westside Road, though its actual location was about three miles down a dirt road called Mount Jackson Lookout Road, Monte Rio Fire Chief Steve Baxman said.
Within an hour, crews were reporting good progress, largely because of pre-emptive staffing increases earlier in the day due to a red flag warning from the National Weather Service.
Baxman, who was the first firefighter to get to the remote location, was at the lead of a special task force assembled Friday afternoon to respond in the event of an outbreak.
Between the task force and a strike team put in position for the same purpose, Baxman had as many as 15 fire engines and water tenders at the scene a short time after the fire started, he said.
“We had a lot of equipment ready, so that was the good news,” he said.
Also good luck: a dirt road or driveway encircling the property that allowed crews to contain the fire to about a half-acre.
Firefighters used portable pumpers and water from a swimming pool to douse the flames, Baxman said.
The burning structure, later discovered to be a large pool cabana, was destroyed, but firefighters saved the residence on the property, Baxman said. It appeared no one was home when the fire started.
Gusting winds expected to increase through the night were just beginning to kick up as crews got the fire under control and had water on everything, Baxman said.
“We’re just starting to get the breeze,” he said by phone from the scene. “Luckily, we’ve got it pretty much knocked down.”
The flames could be seen in images captured by lookout cameras positioned throughout the region.
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