Crews contain grass fires along parkway in South Natomas area

Sacramento firefighters and crews from neighboring fire districts worked for nearly three hours Tuesday afternoon to corral four fires that broke out along the American River Parkway.

The two largest fires in the three-alarm incident occurred in the Discovery Park area, near Garden Highway and Truxel Road, and led the Sacramento County Regional Parks Department to close miles 0 to 4 in the Discovery Park area. The other burned in the area of Northgate Boulevard near the Highway 160 offramp.

Chris Harvey, spokesman for the Sacramento Fire Department, said the fires started about 3:15 p.m. As of about 4:40 p.m., he said crews had the fire near Garden Highway and Truxel surrounded, but they were having difficulty accessing the core of the fire area due to dense brush. Just after 5 p.m., however, the fire jumped to the north side of the Garden Highway toward an apartment complex.

Residents on the north side of the highway helped put out spot fires with garden hoses as the Sacramento Metropolitan Fire District’s helicopter dropped water along the fire line.

Jim Von Eschen, 62, a resident of the Delta Pointe Apartments off Mossy Bank Drive, said he was at home when he saw large flames approaching.

“I saw no one fighting it, so I started knocking on doors,” he said.

Von Eschen said several dozen residents began fighting the fire using garden hoses and fire extinguishers. In one section, the fire burned about a foot onto the Delta Pointe property.

Smoke billowed above the dense foliage of Discovery Park as firefighters struggled to reach the core of the fire. The archery range in the park was empty, and the runners and cyclists who usually frequent the park were absent. The few visitors who did show up were quick to leave.

While most people sought to stay clear of the area, a group of five to 10 people, who declined to give their names, chose to stay in their camp off a wooded walking trail, about 5 feet from where one fire was burning. It was their home, one woman said, as she ran back and forth with jugs of water.

A man in the group dug makeshift trenches in the soft dirt, using a shovel borrowed from firefighters, while others carried gallons of water to pour into the trench. The wet ground, one said, would keep the fire at bay. A man carrying two plastic containers full of water said they were protecting the few belongings they had.

The fire along Highway 160 moved toward Capital City Freeway, creating heavy smoke in the area of Canterbury Road, Royal Oaks Drive and the Woodlake area, Harvey said. That fire was reported largely contained shortly after 5 p.m.

By 6 p.m., Harvey said, all the fire were contained, but he said crews would remain on scene for several hours, extinguishing burning trees and hot spots. Harvey said he did not know the total acreage burned. The cause of the fires was under investigation.

The Sacramento Fire Department was assisted by neighboring agencies, including Metro Fire, and the Cosumnes and West Sacramento fire departments.

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