Tree fellers being brought in to help tackle hotspots in East Bay hills fire

The fire that mobilized up to 200 firefighters Wednesday in the East Bay hills was 50% under control by 7 a.m. Thursday. Check back for updates.

A line of firefighters on Grizzly Peak around 9 a.m. on Thursday Aug. 3. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

By Tracey Taylor and Natalie Orenstein

Update, 9:13 a.m.: Tree fellers are being brought in to the area of the hotspot fires in the East Bay hills, to cut down pine and eucalyptus trees which are “significant fuels,” Oakland Fire Department engineer Charleton Lightfoot said at a press conference in the hills around 9 a.m. Cutting down trees decreases the chance of spot fires which crews continuously put out through the night, he said. The fire is still across 20 acres and 50% contained, he said.

“The message from Cal Fire…is [eucalyptus] are incredibly dangerous trees,” said Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Melinda Drayton at a later press conference. Tree-felling is a “super slow process” and only two trees had been chopped by 11 a.m., she said.

Lightfoot said they are expecting 160 fire personnel from different agencies to be working in the hills today, Thursday.


The weather is “slightly favorable” compared to yesterday, he said. They are expecting an increase in winds in the afternoon, but not as bad as those on Wednesday.

Lightfoot added that crews have learned how to address this area since the devastating 1991 firestorm, and do annual training in the area.

Asked about a fire that OFD reported via Twitter happened on Grizzly Peak on Aug. 1 Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Melinda Drayton said there have been three fires in this general area since July 3, including one that may have burned overnight. She said fires in this area are common, and they are not looking into a link between any of the fires.

The goats who graze the Berkeley Hills showed up for a normal day on the job on Thursday, Aug. 3 while crews worked to fully contain the fire in the area. They were moved to safety at the height of the fire on Aug. 2. Photo: Natalie Orenstein

Fire crews are not the only workers in the hills this morning, as the goats who graze the area arrived at Grizzly Peak and South Park Drive around 9 a.m. as well. The animals were there for a normal day of work, said an Oakland police officer. They were moved to safety at the height of the fire on Aug. 2.


ORIGINAL STORY, PUBLISHED AT 7 A.M.: After fire crews from several agencies worked into the night monitoring and extinguishing hot spots in the East Bay hills, the fire that started on Grizzly Peak Wednesday, Aug. 2, shortly after 1 p.m., was 50% contained at 7 a.m. Thursday, according to an Oakland Fire Department spokesman.

Berkeleyside reporter Natalie Orenstein is on scene, at Signpost 15, on Grizzly Peak just north of South Park Drive, where the fire started. She said the air in the hills is still very smoky.

Oakland fire engineer Charleton Lightfoot said the fire is still active, but has not grown in size since 9 p.m. Wednesday.

“We have a good handle on this incident,” he said.

There is no new information about the cause of the fire.

Lightfooot said there are still a couple of hotspots in the area and Grizzly Peak is expected to be closed between South Park Drive and Centennial until around 8 p.m. Thursday.


“The public should stay clear,” Lightfoot said.

Asked by Berkeleyside whether a reported fire in the same area on Tuesday may have been related to Wednesday’s conflagration, Lightfoot said the joint investigation by Cal Fire and OFD is continuing.

One firefighter was injured while fighting the fire. A Cal Fire crew member suffered minor injuries after falling down a hill and was taken to a hospital in stable condition, Lightfoot confirmed Thursday.

Smoke from a hotspot in the East Bay hills. Photo — taken Thursday Aug. 3 around 8 a.m. just north of Signpost 15 where the fire started on Aug. 2 — by Natalie Orenstein

The fire was first reported shortly after 1 p.m. Wednesday. It started in Berkeley on the west side of Grizzly Peak, near Signpost 15, then jumped the road and proceeded to head east towards Fish Ranch Road, and into Contra Costa County. There were two sections to the fire, and the one in the northeast quadrant, with its heavy vegetation and large trees, was proving the most difficult to fight, Oakland Deputy Fire Chief Melinda Drayton said early Wednesday evening.

This developing story was updated as we gathered more information.