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  • Renee C. Byer /

    Sacramento firefighters douse a brush fire that burned behind Cal Expo on Friday afternoon not far from the facility’s racetrack.

  • Renee C. Byer /

    Cherri Seely, right, a California Expo State Fair Security guard, covers her face as she keeps watch on Levee Road near the Race Track at Cal Expo.

  • Renee C. Byer /

    A man holding his possessions talks to a police officer while leaving Cal Expo as the brush fire burned nearby. The 40-acre fire burned an area rarely seen by people who attend the State Fair.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    A helicopter drops fire retardant as smoke billows past the racetrack, agricultural buildings and the Raging Waters park at Cal Expo. The fire led officials to cancel the sold-out Sacramento Republic FC soccer game at Bonney Field, but the 9:30 p.m. fireworks show at Cal Expo was allowed to go on.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    Smoke billows as firefighters contain a blaze that jumped Levee Road near the racetrack at Cal Expo. Behind Cal Expo, flames had spread through dry grass and leaped into trees in the urban wild between the fairgrounds and American River. Sacramento Fire Chief Walt White said the fire’s cause had not been determined.

  • Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee

    A Sacramento Metropolitan Fire Department helicopter drops its load of water on a hot spot on the American River Parkway, south of Cal Expo as fire burns through thick, dry grass and trees as beach goers stand and watch the activities during one of the biggest holiday's of the year on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.

  • Randy Pench / Sacramento Bee

    Two men who relax on the shore of the American River watch as a fire on the American River Parkway, south of Cal Expo burns through thick, dry grass and trees during one of the biggest holiday's of the year on Friday, July 4, 2014, in Sacramento, Calif.

  • Sue Morrow / Sacramento Bee

    Smoke rise from the fire near Cal Expo on Saturday afternoon.

  • Renee C. Byer

    Firefighters tend to the remnants of a grass fire at Cal Expo on July 4, 2014. A grass fire burning on the south side of the Cal Expo fence line forced the evacuation of Raging Waters park, Bonney Field and the grandstand for tonight's fireworks viewing, but officials have made no decision yet whether to cancel Fourth of July events or the soccer game. State Fair officials said that the bulk of the fire has been put out after 15 fire engines responded to the blaze. But plumes of smoke have filled the sky throughout the Cal Expo and Arden area since the fire began.

  • Renée C. Byer /

    A grass fire burning on the south side of Cal Expo forced the evacuation of the fairgrounds Saturday, July 4, 2014 in Sacramento, Calif.

Cause of 4th of July fire at Cal Expo still under investigation, no threat to State Fair, officials say

Published: Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2014 - 6:56 pm

The fire that burned 160 acres at Cal Expo on the Fourth of July poses no threat to Friday’s opening of the California State Fair, fire officials said Wednesday.

Sacramento Fire Department spokesman Roberto Padilla said the cause of the blaze had still not been determined, but “we can’t rule out arson.”

The holiday fire damaged 10 cars and forced the evacuation of the Raging Waters park and postponement of a Sacramento Republic FC soccer game. Cal Expo’s evening fireworks show went on as scheduled, however.

Padilla said his department is not concerned about a second fire rising from the ashes. “For the most part, there’s really nothing that makes us want to be nervous,” he said.

But pits of tree bark and roots could still be slowly burning underground, Padilla said, and these “smokers” can last for months.

“Even though you have dirt on top of wood, that fire keeps smoldering,” Padilla said. “But just because it smokes and stuff, it doesn’t mean it’s a major threat.”

Cal Expo Marketing Director Jennifer Castleberry said people arriving at Cal Expo for the fair’s opening Friday will probably never even notice that a fire happened at all. “The fire didn’t really affect our grounds very much,” Castleberry said. “Everything is moving as normal in preparations for the fair.”

Embers from the flames burned holes in some shade cloths and shade structures, Castleberry said, and ash had to be swept up to prepare for Friday’s opening.

“We have a lot of staff having to get ready for a fair and having a fire in the middle of all that makes folks work a little bit longer and harder,” Castleberry said.

The fairgrounds were lucky to be affected so little, Castleberry said, even on the night of the fire.

“We were very fortunate,” Castleberry said. “There isn’t any kind of residual odor or anything.”

Fires along the heavily wooded American River Parkway will be an ongoing concern for the Fire Department, Padilla said, and it will use the Cal Expo fire to learn how to better handle future blazes.

“Obviously, there’s still possibility for fire along the parkway,” Padilla said.

Call The Bee’s Will Wright, (916) 321-1212.

Read more articles by Will Wright

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