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  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    Sacramento-area fire crews battle a brush fire that started Thursday on the north side of the American River between Highway 160 and the Capital City Freeway. The blaze consumed about 100 acres of grassland and sent plumes of dense smoke into the sky above the American River Parkway.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    A large grass fire blazed along the American River Parkway north of downtown Thursday but caused no injuries and threatened no homes.

  • RANDALL BENTON / rbenton@sacbee.com

    About 20 fire vehicles were dispatched from a command post set up on Northgate Boulevard as crews fought to bring the blaze under control.

  • RANDY PENCH / rpench@sacbee.com

    A firefighter watches as flames approach the paved bike path on the north side of the American River near Commerce Circle. No structures were damaged, although some nearby residents hosed down their roofs as a precaution.

Fire along American River Parkway burns 100 acres

Published: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Friday, Jul. 26, 2013 - 11:19 am

A large grass fire blazed along the American River Parkway north of downtown Thursday but caused no injuries and threatened no homes.

As of 9 p.m., firefighters from agencies throughout the Sacramento area had the 100-acre fire fully contained.

They stopped the forward progress of the fire, and expected to mop up troublesome hot spots into this morning.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Sacramento Fire Department received multiple calls about 4 p.m. that a fire was burning north of the American River, said Assistant Chief Scott Williams.

By 5 p.m., a thick plume of dark smoke hung in the air above North Sacramento and was visible from Cal Expo, where the California State Fair is being held.

Winds never blew the smoke directly over Cal Expo, and fair activities weren't interrupted, said Michelle Prater, a State Fair spokeswoman.

Judy Hack, a resident of North Sacramento Mobile Home Park about a half-mile from the American River Parkway, came out of her house about 4:30 p.m. when she heard news of the fire.

"Suddenly the entire sky filled up with a big dark cloud," Hack said.

Her neighbors were busy dousing their roofs with water, and some left the park, Hack said.

Ash fell throughout the neighborhood, but the park was never threatened and residents were not told to evacuate, she said.

At a command post near the American River Parkway Access on Northgate Boulevard, 20 or more engines from the Sacramento area were mobilized to battle the fire.

The area, which is choked with brush, dry grass and weeds, is a tinderbox during dry summer months, Williams said.

Sacramento-area firefighters respond to the parkway occasionally when a spark from homeless encampments, train tracks, arsonists or heavy machinery ignites vegetation, he said.

When the fire began Thursday afternoon, humidity was about 37 percent – a factor that served to inhibit the fire's spread, Williams said.

By 9 p.m., the humidity had increased to 44 percent.

Although the fire was fed by a late afternoon breeze, it was held in place by the American River, a backstop that helped firefighters corner the blaze, Williams said.

"We like to have fires burn between barriers," Williams said. "And the levee is one barrier and the river is another."

The fire is the latest in a season that's among the worst in the past few years, Williams said.

The Sacramento Fire Department began fighting similar blazes in mid-March due to a lack of rain that made the area's vegetation dry and liable to flare up, he said.

"The parkway is very volatile, especially this time of year," Williams said.

Call The Bee's Benjamin Mullin, (916) 321-1034.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Benjamin Mullin



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