A eucalyptus tree fell on a vehicle traveling along Canada Road in Woodside at about 3:30 p.m. on Thursday (July 24) and caused a grass fire that interrupted electrical power to the area and snarled traffic on Interstate 280.
As the tree fell, it brought down a 60,000-volt power line that ignited vegetation along the eastern side of I-280 in the right of way between the freeway and Canada Road at Godetia Drive, firefighters said.
The initial investigation had not made clear whether the tree fell on its own or fell after being struck by the vehicle.
Everyone escaped injury, including the people in the vehicle, Battalion Chief Rob Lindner of the Woodside Fire Protection District told the Almanac. The vehicle was towed from the scene, but the damage seemed limited to scratches and the vehicle appeared drivable, he said.
Sparks from the downed power line lit vegetation on both sides of Canada Road, but the smaller fire on the east side of the road was quickly extinguished, Mr. Lindner said. Crews from Pacific Gas & Electric were on the scene early, but complications involving a need to "ground the line" meant that power could not immediately be shut off, Mr. Lindner said.
The one-alarm fire was contained within the first hour and under control by about 8 p.m., Mr. Lindner said. Firefighters were on the scene until about 11 p.m., he said.
Participating were firefighters from the Woodside district, the Redwood City Fire Department and the San Mateo County Fire Department as well as a wildland-response team from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The Cal Fire group included five engine companies, two airplanes and a helicopter, with the helicopter doing most of the airborne firefighting, Mr. Lindner said.
The incident occurred at the point where the power line crossed Canada Road, a situation that contributed to the fire being on both sides of the road, Mr. Lindner said. The damaged line shut off power to traffic signals on Woodside Road, including at the intersections with I-280 and with Alameda de las Pulgas, he said.
The main fire was where the vegetation was thickest, in the area between Canada Road and the freeway, Mr. Lindner said. The vegetation included flashy fuels -- fire-prone weeds -- shrubbery and eucalyptus trees.
Firefighters worked to isolate and contain the fire, and a helicopter dropped three or four loads of water, he said. With firefighters on all four sides of the burning, and then smoldering, vegetation, the fire was well contained, he said.
Traffic was snarled on northbound I-280 as the two lanes nearest the fire were closed. Parts of Canada Road were closed for several hours.