Fire causes postponement of Republic FC match

A 40-acre grass fire that brushed up against the south side of Bonney Field at Cal Expo forced the postponement of the Sacramento Republic FC’s sold-out game Friday night against the Orange County Blues FC.

Republic FC President Warren Smith said the match will be rescheduled at a date to be determined.

“We provided the league (USL Pro) with information throughout the day on the fire, and the league made the call (to postpone),” Smith said. “It was a public safety and air quality issue.

Smith said his staff, as well as the concessions staff, arrived at 1:30 p.m. to prepare for the sellout crowd of 8,000 people – the team’s fifth consecutive sellout. By 3:30 p.m., Smith said, approximately 75 people from both organizations were evacuated from Bonney Field and Cal Expo as the fire moved within 20 feet of the south end of the field. Smith said Bonney Field sustained no damage and Sunday’s home match against Atlas FC, scheduled for 6:30 p.m., will not be affected.

Friday’s “game will be rescheduled for competitive reasons,” said Smith, whose team is 6-1-1 at home this season. “But it’s too early to call because we have a busy July and Orange County FC has a busy August.”

Republic FC is in fourth place in USL Pro at 8-5-2, while Orange County Blues FC is in sixth place (8-8-0).

Republic FC leading scorer Rodrigo Lopez is asthmatic and was glad the game was postponed, not only for his own health reasons but for those of the players and fans who would have packed the stands Friday night.

“My asthma is under control and I usually take a couple of puffs off my inhaler before each game,” said Lopez, who is tied for the team lead with five goals and leads the team with eight assists. “But I’m sure I would have been breathing harder out there and had more problems. I’m glad the game was canceled. You don’t want to take your kids into that kind of environment when it’s that smoky.”