Fire officials at Travis Air Force Base are trying to determine what ignited a nearby grass fire that spread to the military installation, burning 230 unoccupied housing units Saturday.
Two firefighters sustained minor injuries in the 3 p.m., eight-alarm blaze that was controlled early Sunday and prompted a base commander to call it “the biggest fire the base has ever seen.”
A Travis spokesman, Senior Airman Shawn Emery, said the destroyed homes were among 500 housing units scheduled for demolition to make way for modern residences on the base.
“The homes have been unoccupied for about two and a half years,” Emery said. “A private owner was going to take control of the properties, demolish the old buildings and build new housing.”
He said the fire did not threaten occupied homes at another portion of the base, which houses about 1,100 personnel, he said.
“We dodged a bullet,” he said.
Fire from the adjacent field hopped a fence, burning the first vacant home on the other side, Emery said.
Winds estimated at 30 to 40 mph played a major role in whipping the blaze from one house to another, he said. The fire covered about 12 acres, he said.
The senior airman said nearly 220 firefighters from 11 departments finally controlled the blaze at 3 a.m. Sunday.
The two injured firefighters were treated by medical personnel and released, according to a news release from the military base.
Destroyed were 190 single-unit homes and 40 duplexes, Travis officials said.
In addition, 167 undamaged, vacant homes were left without gas, and 78 had electrical power knocked out.
Emery said Travis firefighters were assisted by firefighters from the fire departments or fire protection districts of Fairfield, Vacaville, Suisun City, Dixon, Cordelia, Benicia, Montezuma, Napa, Yolo and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
He credited the constant training by the agencies in interdepartmental cooperation in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks for keeping the fire from doing more damage.
“We exercise continuously to prepare for things like this,” Emery said. “It’s vital that we work with our partners.”
West Coast 911 firefighting news source – The Sacramento Bee