Solano County fire blankets Berkeley with smoke

Says reader Martha McEvoy, who shared this photograph: "Usually the hills are way easier see."

Says reader Martha McEvoy, who shared this photograph from Camelia at Stannage, near San Pablo Avenue: “Usually the hills are way easier see.”

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available. Scroll down for details about the size of the fire and the smoke advisory issued Friday afternoon.

Shortly after 2 p.m., many members of the public began reporting a strong smell of smoke around Berkeley. One resident reported a possible fire in Tilden. Berkeleyside checked with the Berkeley Fire Department and were told that the heavy smoke was making its way over from an 8-alarm fire in Suisun City, in Solano County.

“The wind changed and we’re getting the smoke,” said Berkeley Fire Chief Gil Dong shortly before 2:20 p.m. He said Berkeley Fire crews are able to see the Suisun plume from the hills.

Deputy Fire Chief Avery Webb said the department does have a patrol unit checking the area in the Berkeley Hills but, as of about 2:25 p.m., the smell just appeared to be caused by “drift smoke” from Solano County. 

According to the Vallejo Times-Herald, quoting a Cal Fire official, a large grass fire was reported near state Highway 12 in the Suisun City area on Friday. The fire was reported to the California Highway Patrol shortly after noon, and had reached around 200 acres by about 1:40 p.m.

The Oakland Fire Department sent out an email just before 3 p.m. about the blaze: “Due to high winds smoke, ash and heavy odor of smoke is drifting throughout the City of Oakland. We have additional units out throughout the Oakland Hill area patrolling at this time.”

Update, 3:15 p.m. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District said it was about to issue a smoke advisory. Spokeswoman Lisa Fasano said smoke from fires in the Fairfield area in Solano County were impacting areas including Alameda and Contra Costa counties. The wind is coming in a south-westerly direction. The organization advises people to keep windows and doors closed and to set air-conditioning units on re-circulate. “Those who have respiratory issues should try to stay upwind from the smoke,” Fasano said. People with asthma or who have serious breathing conditions should seek medical advice if needed, she added. In addition, everyone should heed the Red Flag guidelines to not burn anything outside and to avoid using machinery that might cause sparks.

(The guidelines, issued by the National Weather Service, are in effect until 11 p.m. due to strong winds and low humidity.)

Update, 3:48 p.m. According to Cal Fire, via Twitter, the “Branscombe Fire” spans 1,000 acres and is 50% contained.

At 3:37 p.m., local authorities put out the following message via email: “This is a message from the Berkeley Fire Department. We are monitoring a large fire in Solano County. The smoke from this fire is drifting into the Berkeley area. At this time, persons who are sensitive to smoke or have related health issues are advised to remain indoors and shut their windows until the smoke has cleared. For more information, please monitor local news stations and 1610 AM radio.”

Update, 5:38 p.m. Reports are coming in from various media outlets that the fire in Suisun Marsh is now 70% contained. The Fairfield Daily Republic is reporting from the scene. The vegetation fire was reported shortly after noon, and grew quickly to an 8-alarm blaze exacerbated by high winds and dry weather conditions.

Update, 10 p.m. KTVU reports that Friday’s fire, which spread over more than 1,000 acres, destroyed a barn filled with hay as well as some farm equipment. Two people suffered from smoke inhalation, but only one sought treatment at a hospital. The fire is still burning in some uninhabited marshy areas, but is otherwise under control, according to officials. Full containment is not likely to take place before Saturday; other reports say it may take several days.

Update, Oct. 5, 12:50 a.m. Because of high fire danger, tailgate activities at Saturday’s Cal Bears football game will be restricted, according to a release from Cal Athletics. Attendees will need to “limit their use of barbecue grills and cooking stoves during tailgating activities in order to ensure safety for all in the area. Most importantly, no cooking stoves or barbecue grills will be allowed on any campus property east of Galey Road, Piedmont Avenue or Sports Lane on the Clark Kerr Campus.” Authorities will be patrolling parking lots around campus to ensure adherence to these guidelines. A map of campus lots can be found here.

Says reader David He, who shared this photo from San Francisco: "Can't even see Berkeley across the bay."

Says reader David He, who shared this photo from San Francisco: “Can’t even see Berkeley across the bay.”

Smoke from the Suisun fire. Photo: Nick Vandehey

Smoke from the Suisun fire, from the hills of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. Photo: Nick Vandehey

Looking out at Channing Way near Roosevelt, the smoke from the Suisun fire is so thick it's blocking out the hills. Reports Jai Jai Noire, who shared this photograph with us, "The smell is intense."

Looking out at Channing Way near Roosevelt, the smoke from the Suisun fire is so thick it’s blocking out the hills. Reports Jai Jai Noire, who shared this photograph with us, “The smell is intense.”

The view from view from Panoramic Way, up about near the UC Berkeley Stadium. Photo: Holly Renee

The view from view from Panoramic Way, up about near the UC Berkeley Stadium. Photo: Holly Renee

"So much smoke from the fire in Napa, you can't even see Downtown Oakland." Photo: Danielle Dai

“So much smoke from the fire in Napa, you can’t even see Downtown Oakland.” Photo: David Weinzimmer

We will update this story if more information becomes available. Have photos of the plume? Send them our way at tips@berkeleyside.com.

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  • irene

    Thanks Laura – yes, there just was a delay

  • iicisco

    Why would anyone sign up for BENS using their email for an alert? Most cell phones check for mail every 15+min on iOS or Android (unless connected to wifi) and several people don’t check their email hourly (or even daily). Doesn’t everyone have a land line phone and/or cell phone?

    Anyway, if you do have a mobile you should have gotten an alert. At least I did.. See photo

  • Tlf

    Smoke is back very badly in South Berkeley . Saturday 8:30pm. Why?..

  • irene

    not everybody has a cell phone or a landline, that’s why you have the option to receive the alerts by e-mail. And I don’t think you can receive them via a land line

  • irene

    you have to tell them specifically to get the alerts by email – I had to tell them several times. They assume everyone has a cell phone and wants to receive the alerts by text message

  • iicisco

    That doesn’t seem odd to you at all? I’ve never heard of someone investing into email but had no phone whatsoever. I do know you can get SMS messages on compatible VOIP phones.