Bay City News Service
On Sunday night and Monday, the Morgan Fire on Mount Diablo looked like it might run wild for days. But then the weather turned around, literally. Hot, dry conditions gave way to cooler, more humid weather, and the northeasterly wind that had driven the fire across more than 3,000 acres in its first 24 hours swung around to the west and southwest. The more than 1,400 firefighters brought in to combat the blaze quickly contained it.
Now, the fire is at 90 percent containment as of this morning, said Cal Fire spokesman Steve Kaufmann. Fire crews expect to have the blaze completely contained by Friday, and today a “significant demobilization” of fire crews is planned, he said.
The fire started off of Morgan Territory Road near Mount Diablo State Park, southeast of Clayton, shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday. Since then, more than 1,370 fire personnel from more than a dozen agencies have responded to the blaze.
Meanwhile, a body was discovered inside the perimeter of the Clover Fire in Shasta County, which has consumed nearly 8,000 acres and is not expected to be contained until Sunday. The coroner’s office identified the victim, whose body was found inside a house, as Brian Stanley Henry, 56. The causes of both the Morgan and Clover fires remain under investigation.
Back on Mount Diablo, crews are focused on holding the perimeter around the blaze and ensuring that the winds that tend to blow through the area in the afternoon don’t cause any flare-ups, Kaufmann said.
“Because the humidity is so low, we just want to make sure everything is out before we leave the area,” he said. “We are being extra-cautious.”
Since grasses, trees and other fuel in the area were already dried out, the fire was able to spread much more quickly than it would have during a year with more rainfall, he said.
Both in the Morgan Fire and in wildfires throughout the state, he said, “We’re seeing fire behavior that’s super-extraordinary, because it’s so dry and those fuel beds are so receptive to fire.”
Even though the cause of the fire remains under investigation, Contra Costa County Fire Protection District Capt. Robert Marshall said fire investigators have ruled out natural causes, such as lightning strikes.
Instead, investigators are looking into causes related to human activity, which can range from discarded cigarette butts and unattended campfires to a dragging chain on a vehicle sparking flames, Marshall said.
“There’s a million different things that could happen,” he said.
Residents from about 100 houses that were threatened by the fire have been allowed to return home since evacuations were ordered Sunday.